Hundreds of homes are broken into each year in the Tennessee Valley. Ask any victim, and they’ll tell you it can be an unsettling experience. 

So how can you protect your family, and what’s making you a target? 

Lt. Craig Joel, who oversees robbery and burglary investigations for the Chattanooga Police Department, is answering those questions for us.

Channel 3 tagged along with Lt. Joel as he showed one homeowner her hidden security flaws.

“We’re going over environmental design on the exterior of a home. Ideas, suggestions, things that criminals look for, and things that cops look for as well as easy fixes for homeowners,” Lt. Joel told Channel 3. 

The homeowner, Amy, who doesn’t want Channel 3 to use her last name, does want to know what mistakes she’s making that could make her vulnerable.

“I just want to see what it is about my house that might attract someone to want to get in or what I’m doing right that I should keep doing,” she told Channel 3.

Lt. Joel started the inspection by examining Amy’s garage door.

“These have been improved over and over. You don’t even have an external handle for them to manipulate or force so that’s great,” said Lt. Joel. 

Next, he focuses on landscaping. 

Experts say tall bushes around your home can be a security weakness because they provide a perfect place for a thief to hide.

"You have great landscaping. It's actually perfect. It's very low cut. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to hide behind,” Lt. Joel told Amy.

Amy also got a thumbs up for having Holly bushes around her home. Lt. Joel says they are pretty but prickly which can be a good deterrent.

Another common mistake homeowners make is hiding a key outside of their home.

“The doormat, hopefully, doesn’t have a key underneath it or on top of the door frame," Lt. Joel said. "What we do for convenience a lot of times just creates literally an open door for criminals, and that’s the last thing that we want."

Amy gets high marks during the inspection for having an alarm system, deadbolts on her doors and visible property with no high fences or overgrown landscaping, however, Lt. Joel says she needs more lighting.

He recommends adding lights triggered by motion sensors.

Lt. Joel says one of the best things homeowners can do to protect their property is to get a dog.

“Almost nothing beats a dog. I can also count on my thumbs how many burglaries I’ve worked where there was a large dog in the house,” Lt. Joel told Channel 3. 

And finally, he says, invest in a camera.

“We have made the bulk of our cases in the last few years with phenomenal 4k video from people who have spent maybe $100 on these things. There’s nothing like smiling for the camera to make it easier for us,” said Lt. Joel.

Channel 3 checked out some of the latest security gadgets at Best Buy which sells several brands of wireless cameras. 

The cheapest camera is $69 and the most expensive will cost you $800 plus a monthly video storage fee.

You can monitor the devices from your cell phone and get notifications each time movement is detected. Investigators say what’s great about them is that thieves can’t steal the video after they’ve been captured on camera inside your home.

Employees say they get questions about the cameras almost daily from customers who’ve either had bad experiences or are simply trying to be proactive and protect their homes.

When the inspection is over, Lt. Joel says Amy is doing almost everything right to protect her property.

“It sounds like the builders did a really great job, and I have a pretty secure area so that makes me very happy,” Amy told Channel 3.

Here are some other suggestions to protect your home from burglaries:

  • Have a neighbor collect your mail if you’re out of town
  • Leave your car parked outside so it looks like someone is home
  • Have a neighbor watch your house
  • Leave a television on so it appears someone is home

Lt. Joel says most home burglaries happen Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. 

That’s right, when you’re at work, burglars are working too.

If your home is broken into, document, document, document! 

Investigators suggest using your cell phone to take pictures and videos of your home.

This is important for police as well as your insurance company.

In 2017, there were 1,505 burglaries in Chattanooga.

The Chattanooga Police Department will help homeowners assess their homes for free. 

The department is also sponsoring a class geared toward assessing businesses. The class will be offered on February 26, 27 and 28 from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. at the Edney Innovation Center at 1100 Market Street. The class will also be held on March 1st at the Family Justice Center at 5705 Uptain Road in Chattanooga. The public is invited to attend.