Whether or not the world is getting more dangerous is debatable. However, the safety of your family should always be an issue of concern, and rightly so. Whether you've recently experienced a break in or are just anxious about leaving your children home alone, there are many things you can do to improve security around the house. While nothing is completely fool proof or guaranteed, making a few changes can go a long way in deterring would-be troublemakers and give you some peace of mind.
Trim hedges and shrubbery away from walkways, windows and doors so that the path is visible and no intruders can hide in the landscaping. Install motion detector lights that will flood the area with light upon your arrival or other movement.
Install a wide-angled peephole in your door so that your family can see who is at the door before you answer it. Pair this with a quality door (solid wood is the safest) on a good frame with a decent lock. Invest in door and window braces for other potential entry points in the house.
Get a dog - although they won't deter all thieves, they still have the potential to scare someone off or alert your neighbors. And don't forget the "Beware of Dog" signs, which might be useful even if there's no dog to actually beware of. A monitored alarm system can also be a great deterrent. Post visible signs warning that the house is alarmed, even if you can't afford the real thing.
Varying your schedule can deter thieves who might be watching the house. Using timers to turn lights on and off can give the impression that someone is home. These are also useful when going away for longer periods of time. Setting your radio or television on timers may also give the impression of inhabitants, discouraging thieves.
Also, if you are going away for a while, cancel the newspaper delivery and ask a trusted friend to pick up the mail. If you'll be away in the winter, arrange for snow removal while you're gone. If you're leaving for an extended period in the summer have someone mow your lawn. Don't tell strangers about your trip out of town, but do let your neighbors know so that they can keep an eye on your house. Developing a friendly rapport with the neighbors can help with security - when you know who lives in the neighborhood you're more likely to notice suspicious behavior. Arrange to keep your spare key on the neighbor's property instead of your own.
Don't give thieves any incentives: when you buy new appliances or electronics, don't leave your boxes at the curb for all eyes to see. Break them down and recycle them.
Keep valuables out of sight - don't leave your tools or mountain bikes lying around the yard where thieves might pick them up or be attracted to see what else you've got. Tools can also be used to break into your home, so be sure to keep your shed locked.
Find a good spot to hide your valuables inside your house. A fire safe box may protect your loot from fire, but many of the locks are easily breakable. Safes should be built in to a wall or other structure, well hidden and kept locked. It's also a good idea to list and photograph all your possessions as a record for your insurance company. In the event of a break in, this will help simplify your insurance claim.