Home security on a budget

Channel 4's crime and safety analyst offers home protection advice

By Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor , Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Getting the family ready for that annual trek to grandma's house for the holidays? Or maybe you're looking forward to some much-needed family time, hunkered down amid the kids' toys and in-laws visiting?

Whether your home or away, making sure your home is secure is paramount.  If now is not the best time for you to buy an expensive home security system, there are several apps now available that help you turn your old electronics into home monitoring tools.

With the free Presence app, for example, you can turn an old iPhone or iPad into a home security camera, viewing the live stream from your phone.

There's also the iCam app, a download for your iPhone or Android that is currently on special for $2.99.  iCam works with both devices by tapping into the webcam you already have on your computer.

Channel 4 Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson says there are even simpler ways you can better protect your home for less than $20.

One of his biggest recommendations: Window locks.

"They're simple to use," Ken explained. "Just turning a screw on the device will put an extra wedge by the window, making it even more difficult for a would-be-burglar to break into your home."

We found the small window locks for less than $5 at a nearby hardware store.

Jefferson also recommends a "double-cylinder deadbolt lock" for the doors leading into your home. They are deadbolts that use an actually key to lock and unlock on both sides of the door.

Third, Jefferson says a simple noise maker attached to your doors will do the same job as a high-tech security system; scare a thief off.

"For less than $10, you post it between the door jam and the door itself," Ken showed us. "And when someone comes in at night you're not expecting, the noise maker will make a lot of noise; just like an alarm system."

We rode around several Jacksonville neighborhoods with Jefferson and he pointed out a problem found at many homes no matter how big or small: Landscaping.

The higher the hedges in front of windows or near doors, the better the hiding place for burglars to do their business.

"A burglar or thief could hide or conceal himself from the neighbors or anyone walking by if they were trying to break into the house," Ken said as he pointed at home after home with hedges sitting too high.

Jefferson shared a few more safety tips to help you keep your home safe.

He reminds everyone to close the garage door behind you, even if you're just bringing groceries in to set down on the table before you return to your car.

Also, if you've hired workers to come into your home, make sure they don't leave doors open or unlocked, no matter how many times they need to return to their work truck.

"Whether you're home or not, all it takes is the slightest opportunity for an intruder to invade your home," Jefferson explained.

Read the Uniform Crime Report on burglaries: FBI.gov

Additional safety gadgets available: DropCam  &  Logitech Alert

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