By Ted Parker
SDPD Neighborhood Policing Resource Team
This article deals with installing burglar alarms, providing visibility, maintaining your property, protecting your home and property when you're away, making sure the police can find your home, and identifying your property.
- Alarm systems usually include one or more of the following components: photocell or magnetic contacts on doors and windows, heat or motion detectors in interior spaces, glass break detectors, keypads with a means of checking the status of the system, and audible alarms. All equipment should be Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certified.
- Multiple sensors are preferred because they reduce false alarms, which are wasteful of police resources and lead to fines and permit revocation.
- Residents of Del Mar Heights in the City of San Diego should see Secs. 33.3701-33.3723 of the San Diego Municipal Code for burglary alarm business and agent requirements and responsibilities, alarm user permit requirements, etc. Call SDPD Permits and Licensing at (619) 531-2250 about obtaining an alarm permit.
- Get alarm company references from friends or neighbors. Get at least three estimates in writing. The SDPD does not prefer or recommend companies, brands, or types of security systems.
- Burglary alarm permits are not required in the City of Del Mar.
- Make sure the alarm company has a City Business Tax Certificate and is licensed by the State of California. You can verify the latter by calling the State of California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services at (916) 322-4000 or going
- If your system is monitored, make sure the monitoring station is open 24/7 and has backup power. The company's customer service department should also be open 24/7.
- Make sure you understand your service contract, all the points of protection and the equipment to be installed, the initial and monthly payments, and the warranty period.
- Inform your insurance company. You may qualify for a discount.
- The system should also have a fail-safe battery backup. Check the batteries periodically and replace them if necessary.
- Leave outside lights on after dark or have outside lights controlled by a motion detector. Make sure there are no dark areas around the house, garage, or yard in which a person could hide. Street lights are generally inadequate for illuminating your property.
- Check lights regularly and replace burnt out bulbs.
- Trim bushes to less than 3 feet to eliminate possible hiding places, especially near windows and sidewalks.
- Trim tree canopies to at least 8 feet to allow visibility into your property.
- Replace solid walls in front yards with open fencing to eliminate hiding places and make climbing more difficult.
- Install a wide-angle peephole in your front door so you can look out without being seen yourself.
Maintaining your property
- Keep property in good condition and free of trash, litter, weeds, leaves, graffiti, dismantled or inoperative vehicles, and other things that indicate neglect in caring for your property.
- Replace broken windows or screens.
- Repair broken fences and gate locks.
- Use screens, wired glass, or other protection for light fixtures and bulbs.
- Remove loose rocks and other objects that could be used to vandalize your property.
Protecting your home and property when away
- Use timers on lights, radios, TVs, etc. to make them go on and off during the day and night to make your home appear occupied.
- Stop mail and newspaper delivery, or have neighbor pick up anything left at the home.
- Keep grass watered and cut. Water and trim other landscaping.
- Ask the neighbors to watch your home and report any suspicious activities.
- Leave your itinerary with a neighbor so you can be contacted in an emergency.
- Disconnect your electric garage door opener and padlock the door, preferably on the inside.
- Residents of Del Mar Heights in the City of San Diego can request vacation home checks by visiting the SDPD Northwestern Division at 12592 El Camino Real to fill out a request form. Call (858) 523-7000 first to make sure someone will be at the front desk.
- Residents of the City of Del Mar should call the Encinitas Sheriff's Station at (760) 966-3500 to request vacation home checks.
- Set your burglar alarm and notify your alarm company that you will be away. Then if an alarm occurs when you are away the company will not call your home first to verify the alarm; it will notify the police directly. Also provide the alarm company with an up-to-date list of persons to contact about the alarm and the need to secure your home after a burglary.
Making sure the police can find your home
- Make sure your street address number is clearly visible from the street and is well lighted at night so the police and other emergency personnel can locate your home easily. Numbers should be at least 4 inches high must be used on individual dwellings and duplexes, and 12 inches high on multiple-unit residential buildings.
- Make sure your unit number (in a multifamily housing development) is clearly visible from paths in the development. A directory or map that shows paths and unit locations should be placed at the main entrance of the development.
- Provide the police with an entry code if you live in a gated community.
Identifying your property
- Etch your driver's license number on any valuables that might be stolen.
- Photograph valuables that cannot be etched.
- Keep a detailed, up-to-date record of your valuables. Include type, model, serial number, proof of purchase, and fair market value.