As a homeowner, few things are as unsettling as a crime happening in or in proximity to your neighborhood. Wherever you live, you may already be taking steps to ensure that no harm befalls you or your family. Small steps like not going out alone late at night or avoiding walking in poorly lit areas can be enough in the moment, but there are bigger initiatives you can take to make sure that everyone around you may be sheltered from crime. These 12 steps are easy, may help you get to know your neighbors a little better, and may provide some peace of mind – and may even be fun!

1. Get to know your neighbors: host a barbecue or block party.

Knowing your neighbors by name is a crucial step to increasing safety in your neighborhood. Not only should you get to know them on a personal level, but you should also note their contact information. When you’re gone for the day, they may be the eyes and ears you need, and if there’s some suspicious activity happening on your property, you may want to give them an easy way to contact you.

2. Keep valuables in your home out of sight.

Authorities may encourage homeowners to keep valuables in their homes out of sight to avoid enticing potential criminals who may break into their houses.

3. Close windows and blinds.

Take this precaution before you leave your house and at night, which are the times when criminals are perhaps most likely to strike. Don’t give them easy access to your home, or a reason why they should: by closing windows and blinds, they may be less likely to target your house. By doing this, you may also prevent them from seeing the valuable items you own (like your TV) and knowing your home’s layout.

4. Keep your yard well-maintained, and encourage your neighbors to do the same.

This may come as a surprise to many, but an unkempt property is an invitation for criminal activity to occur in your neighborhood. Invest in your neighborhood’s curb appeal and persuade your neighbors to do the same, as overgrown shrubs and hedges can become easy hiding spots for criminals. Go the extra mile and plant roses or other flowers with thorns below your windows. This way, people targeting your neighborhood may understand that you are not neglectful of your property, and likely on the lookout for nefarious activity.

5. Install a home security system and display a sign indicating that your home is protected.

Install cameras around your home, timers on your lights, and alarms to not only catch a burglar in the act, but to also stop them before they break into your home. Any one of these measures can prevent a break-in or other unlawful activity in your neighborhood – no criminal wants to risk getting caught. Display a sign on your lawn stating that your home is protected, and those individuals will quickly get the message that they are not welcome in your neighborhood. Encourage your neighbors to take the same precautions as you: there’s safety in numbers!

6. Improve lighting in your neighborhood and keep the streets clean.

Like well-maintained lawns, a well-lit and clean neighborhood can let lawbreakers know that they are not welcome and they have an increased chance of getting caught by vigilant residents or cameras. The absence of litter and graffiti can similarly help deter crime. In the same vein, you and your neighbors may want to work together to report broken street lights and keep an eye on vacant lots or houses.

7. Form a Facebook group.

Even if you’re on good terms with your neighbors, you may only have the contact information of the homeowners on your street. How well do you know the folks who live just a few blocks away? It may be a good idea to create or join a neighborhood Facebook group so that you’re always in the know about what’s happening around you.

8. Form a neighborhood watch group.

Sure, you and your neighbors may have formed a pact to keep an eye on one another’s houses, but to boost security in your neighborhood, form a neighborhood watch group. Walking around and exploring hidden spots that can serve as hiding places for criminals is important in order to improve safety. You and your neighbors can work in groups and in shifts – and if criminals see that you’re on the lookout, they may be less likely to target your neighborhood.

9. Host a neighborhood self defense course or other community safety event.

Help organize a community event focused on security or self-defense. Much like a block party or barbecue, events like these can help you and your fellow homeowners get to know one another better. However, gatherings with a focus on safety can prove to be much more useful in the event of an emergency situation, like a break-in.

10. Stay informed: read your local newspaper.

Don’t underestimate the power of staying informed: staying up-to-date on the goings on in your community can help you prepare for any threat to your home or your family. If you read that a neighboring town was hit by a string of burglaries, for example, you and your neighbors can increase security measures to deter the robbers from your street.

11. Know your local police department.

Knowing your local police department and its police officers may give you an edge when it comes down to protecting your family and your neighbors. You can request additional security in your neighborhood if you feel like there’s a threat to your safety and you can address concerns to the authorities. The more familiar you are with the police force near you, the more easily you may be able to access and utilize their services.

12. Report suspicious activity and address empty buildings.

Don’t hesitate to report suspicious activity. Anything from strange sights and sounds to individuals maybe loitering on your street can signify that someone is planning to threaten the safety of your neighborhood. Similarly, to avoid this situation, address the status of empty buildings with the appropriate authorities.

These are only a few basic tips to help you increase security in your community, but there’s so much more you can do!

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.