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by Abigail Van Buren

Simple Safeguards Can Protect Your Home While You're Away

DEAR ABBY: The summer travel season has officially begun. The criminals are prepared; are your readers?

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program (2000), the greatest number of burglaries occurs in July and August -- and 60 percent of all residential burglaries occur during the daytime. The Home Safety Council recommends simple safeguards that will reduce the chances of being victimized:

(1) Evaluate your home's security. Do all door and window locks work?

(2) Is outside lighting bright and focused to illuminate potential entry points?

(3) Are hedges and trees trimmed so intruders can't use them for cover?

(4) Have you removed any extra keys that you've hidden outside? (Burglars know all the good hiding places.)

(5) Make your home look "lived in" while you're away. Buy timers to set lights to come on at different times.

(6) Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway while you're gone.

(7) Stop newspaper and mail deliveries, or have someone pick them up daily.

(8) Do not invite trouble by changing your answering machine greeting to say you're out of town on vacation.

(9) Provide a neighbor, relative or close friend with your itinerary and contact information so you can be reached in case of emergency.

Thanks for sharing this information with your readers, Abby. -- MERI-K APPY, PRESIDENT, THE HOME SAFETY COUNCIL

DEAR MERI-K: Thank you for the timely tips. Readers, for even more safety suggestions, a free checklist can be downloaded at the Home Safety Council's Web site:

Happy trails to you, fellow travelers!