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5 mistakes homeowners make during the summer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The I-TEAM spent weeks going through Jacksonville crime data looking for peak times when you are most likely to become a victim. We specifically analyzed, robberies, aggravated assaults, car thefts and home burglaries.

For robberies, over a one-year period in Jacksonville, statistics reveal 9 p.m. is the peak time for this kind of crime. When it comes to aggravated assaults, 10 p.m. is the peak hour. Fridays and Saturdays, between 9 p.m. and midnight, is the peak time for car thefts. And finally, the prime day of the week for home burglaries is Monday, with the peak time period of 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. -- because that's when people have left their homes to go to work.

RELATED: I-TEAM reveals peak days, times crimes most likely to occur

Summertime happens to be the most popular season for home burglaries, and there are things homeowners are doing to make themselves easier targets.

The I-TEAM turned to News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith to find out the top 5 mistakes homeowners make and what to do to protect your home and your family.

"Residential burglaries are among the easiest crimes to commit, but for police they are among the most difficult ones to solve," said Smith.

Mistake 1: Leave garage door open

Leaving your garage door open is something many of us do when we are home, but Smith says this is a big mistake.

"People leave their garage door open because they usually have their lawn equipment inside, or just their regular tool box inside. If they're working on their house on the side or cutting their grass, they may be in the back," said Smith. "With the lawn mower going, someone can just drive up. Within 10 to 15 seconds, walk in, grab something and leave -- without forced entry, without leaving finger prints -- so it's very difficult to solve."

Smith says when the homeowner starts walking to the front with the lawn mower, the burglar can hear that and know that the homeowner is coming close. Then, the burglar will just get in the car and take off.

Mistake 2: Stash keys

If you're heading outside, maybe for a short walk, you may not want to take your keys with you. But Smith says, take them with you -- don't stash them on the side of the house or somewhere you think is a hiding place from criminals.

"You may think you are going away for just a short period of time and no one can see you hiding your keys, but you have to remember the burglar could be one of your neighbors," warned Smith. "If people are seeing you hide your keys, or following some type of pattern you have established, they can very easily come in -- right when you start walking -- and go in and burglarize your home."

Mistake 3: Leave sliding-glass door open/unlocked

The third common mistake homeowners make is leaving the sliding glass doors open or unlocked. In the summertime, you may be looking for ventilation, so you may keep it open with the screen in place. Or, you may leave the door closed but unlocked so the kids can come in and go outside as they please.

The problem is, you may forget to lock it when you leave the house.

"If a burglar comes, if the door is open, all they have to do is slide the screen door open. Or, even if the screen door is locked, it takes a simple cutting device just to cut the screen and they're right inside the house," Smith explained. "People think about the front door, mainly to lock up, lock the front door, and forget about some of the other windows or the screen door that may be open."

Mistake 4: Not answering the door

Smith says it's a big mistake not to answer the doorbell or a knock at the door when you are home. The reason: if it's a burglar at your door, that criminal is checking to see if your home could be the next target.

"If you don't answer the door, they'll think no one is home and they may kick the door in. But if you come to the door, you don't need to open the door. Talk to them through the window," advised Smith. "They may give a false name or false identification, that's fine. Once they know that someone is home, they'll turn around and go away."

It's a tactic seen in surveillance video -- released by Gainesville Police -- of a home burglary on Monday, July 11, just after 9 a.m. In the video, an unidentified man is seen ringing the doorbell. When there is no answer, the man tries kicking in the door and using a tool to gain access into the home. When the alarm system goes off, he's then seen running out of the house and driving off.

Gainesville Police are still looking for the man. If you have any information, call GPD Special Operations Unit Corporal Jaron Griffin at 352-682-9501. You can also provide anonymous information by submitting a tip one GPD's website.

Mistake 5: Leave car window down

On Gil Smith's list of errors, the fifth most common mistake homeowners make is leaving a window down in the car.

While people may do this to keep the car cool, and think it is perfectly safe because the vehicle is sitting in the driveway, Smith says it's a bad idea.

"It's so easy for someone to just come in -- either take the car or also take the garage door opener -- and maybe not to burglarize the home right then because the car is here, but maybe come back later," warned Smith. "They have easy access to the home, again, with no sign of forced entry."

If you are looking to make your home safer, Consumer Reports says you don't have to break your budget in order to do so. Among one of the things recommended is to stage your own burglary! Read Consumer Reports' 14 ways to make your home more secure.


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