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Easy ways to make your home less of a target for burglars during holidays

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OKLAHOMA CITY - There were almost 36,000 burglaries and 3,200 robberies in Oklahoma last year and experts say many of those could have been prevented with a few easy steps.

The experts say it's still the simple things we sometimes forget that can make the biggest difference.

"Somebody had come through our back door," said Courtney. "They stole all of our electronics. They stole our guns. They tore our closets out. They shot our mirror, so it was really traumatic."

Courtney, a single mother of two, knows first-hand the fear of being a crime victim and the added burden of having to protect not only herself, but her children, especially when it comes to the vulnerable nighttime hours.

She said, "Getting my kids in and out of the car, that can be, that can be scary. And also, just being here by myself, you know, worried about protecting my kids."

Sgt. Ron Starcher, with the Midwest City Police Action Community Office, said, "Exterior lighting is a good thing to have, especially if you're coming home late at night. That way you can see and you don't walk up to a dark house."

Sgt. Starcher is helping homeowners with a few basic things that can make their homes safer.

Exterior lighting in the driveway area discourages thieves that are looking to take advantage of single parents in their driveway or walking into the house.

Of course, the front door needs to be secure.

He said, "We also recommend peepholes so you can see outside and see who is at the door. And also on these plates here, we recommend taking these small screws out and putting three-inch screws in there. It's harder for someone to kick the door in."

It sounds simple but keeping windows secured with good locks and remembering to close the shades or drapes when you are not at home can make it harder for thieves to see what you have.

Sgt. Starcher said, "They'll look in windows, they'll knock on the door. We used to tell people not to answer, you know, if someone is at the door but now we tell them to say 'Can I help you with something?' So they know someone is in the home, because what they'll do is knock and if they don't get an answer, they'll, sometimes, they'll kick the door in."

After the burglary at her house, Courtney now has a burglar alarm.

Experts say it may cost a little but the peace of mind is worth it to many homeowners.

However, there is another form of protection that is becoming increasingly popular.

Sgt. Starcher said, "Just make sure she's properly trained in the use of the handgun. And also since there's children in the home, you want to make sure it's properly secured when not in use when you don't have it out."

Courtney has been through the proper training and knows how to use a gun.

She said, "Having a gun, I definitely feel like I have that security but, of course, I don't want to have to use it. I never want anything to have to get to that point."

Experts from Instant Checkmate also suggest putting up a 'Beware of Dog' sign, even if you do not actually have a pup in the home.

Homeowners should also keep their yards neat to prevent thieves from hiding in bushes.

In fact, you could plant short, thorny bushes around your house for extra protection.

Also, think about taking your name off of your mailbox.

Some tech-savvy criminals can use your name to find your landline phone number to determine if you are home or not.

Experts say if you must label your mailbox, consider using your last name.

Never leave a spare key outside and watch what you put in the trash.

If you've recently purchased any high-end items, don't leave the boxes for your items at the curb.

A burglar could spot that trash and realize you have expensive items in your home.