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Make your home look occupied

Make your home look occupied

If you can make your home look occupied you will reduce the odds of break ins, squatting, and other unpleasant trouble. In recent weeks a vacant home near mine in east Los Gatos has been broken into repeatedly, resulting in significant damage to that property.

There are a few things that can be done to dissuade uninvited visitors, and today we’ll go over some of them.  The main question is how to make it look like you’re home when you’re not.

 

Collage of items to make your home look occupied: gardener's truck, programmable light timers, simple light timers, and "beware of" signs

 

First, before you invest any time or money, go and meet and talk with your neighbors. Share contact info. They may be your best allies in keeping your home safe. If something happens, they will be able to alert you and the police.  And now onto the tips – how to make your home less attractive to burglars and other unwanted intruders.

How to make your home look occupied – a few basic tips (many are low or no cost)

  • Keep the front yard looking tidy.
    • Mow the lawn (or weed) and at least keep it green!
    • Hire a gardener and make sure the sprinklers are on automatic timers. Nothing screams “vacant house” as much as tall, dead weeds or wildly overgrown bushes in the front yard. Simple “mow and blow” gardeners doing just the front yard are not too costly. Side benefit: your neighbors will appreciate this, too, as weeds in your yard will easily spread to theirs. Be a good neighbor for your sake and for theirs.
    • Add extra landscape lighting. Even standalone solar lights are helpful.
  • Use timers!
    • Put lights on timers. These are inexpensive and  some are programmable timers. You can do this with front porch lights as well as lamps on timers indoors.
    • Put a radio or TV on a timer also. The home needs to have some sound and light. A fake tv light can be convincing from the street!
    • There are smart home devices which can also be set up to open and close curtains or blinds. At a minimum, do this for street-facing first floor windows (unless it’s a bathroom window).
  • If rooms are visible from the front yard or sidewalk, it’s important that they be furnished. If that’s not feasible, use sheer curtains on those windows so that light comes through but visibility is close to nil.
  • Ask a neighbor, if you aren’t nearby, to please pick up fliers that sales people leave on your front door or porch. You might be able to hire a nearby middle schooler to periodically check on the front porch to make sure that nothing is accumulating.
  • If possible, have a car parked in the driveway as this is a great way to make your home look occupied. If your neighbors have too many cars, they may be happy to do this.
  • Consider adding alarm stickers or signs or perhaps a Beware of Dog sign.

 

Other deterrents and ideas

After you make your home look occupied, there are a few other things you can do to your home less attractive to the wouldbe burglars.

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Blossom Hill Road fatalities

Blossom Hill Road fatalities

Map of Blossom Hill Road with words Please drive carefully - prevent more Blossom Hill Road deaths

We’ve had two recent Blossom Hill Road fatalities on the east side of town in an area where part of the street is in San Jose (north side) and part is in Los Gatos (south side). That seems to be complicating the response by the municipalities and the police, unfortunately.  Today I wrote about the Blossom Hill Road fatalities on our Belwood Of Los Gatos blog. Below is the lead in. Please click on the link at the bottom to read the whole article.

The east Los Gatos community is shaken by the deaths on Blossom Hill Road this year. They were both close together in time and close together in location.

The media isn’t connecting the stories, even though they are only about .15 of a mile apart. One of them was in Los Gatos and the other in San Jose (Blossom Hill Rd is the dividing line). One was a 2 car accident, the other was an auto hitting people in a crosswalk. Both took place in the first quarter of 2023.

The two recent accidents that caused deaths on Blossom Hill Road:

  1. On January 8th, 2023 at 9:52 a.m., a 19 year old Palo Alto man was driving his vehicle from Belgatos Road and turning left onto Blossom Hill Rd when he was struck by another vehicle and killed. The other driver was injured, also. I haven’t been able to find an update (whether the other driver was arrested or what).
  2. On March 26th, a mother, daughter, and dog were legally crossing Blossom Hill Road at Leigh when they were struck by a vehicle driving westbound. The driver did not stop. The mother died, the daughter was injured, and the dog also perished. The driver was identified, in part by the use of Automatic License Plate Reader cameras (discussed in a Belwood Neighborhood Watch meeting recently). That person was arrested and is now behind bars. The name has not been revealed at this point.

I want to add that it seems to be a small miracle that two weeks ago, when we had a multi day power outage, there were no fatalities along this part of Blossom Hill, despite the traffic light being out for days and with no police officer guiding traffic there and no temporary stop signs or orange cones in place. We saw people fly through that intersection as if it didn’t exist.

Please continue reading on the Belwood of Los Gatos website: Deaths on Blossom Hill Road.

Related Reading:

Bicycle and Pedestrian Overcrossing Project – Blossom Hill Road over Highway 17 (2023, this site)
Improved Traffic Safety at Blossom Hill Road & University Avenue in Los Gatos (2010, this site)

 

Neighborhood Watch in the Belwood area

Neighborhood Watch in the Belwood area

Last night there was a Neighborhood Watch in the Belwood area in East Los Gatos. Much of what was shared will likely interest people throughout Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and nearby, so I wanted to share the info here also.

 

Changing consequences slide from the neighborhood watch in the Belwood area

Highlights: Neighborhood Watch in the Belwood area

Sergeant Bill Hoyt from the Los Gatos Monte Sereno police department made a presentation and answered questions from residents regarding recent break ins and what can be done about it.

Most surprisingly, he shared that at least some of the crime is coming from a South American group which brings thieves up on tourist visas, puts them up in a safe house for a period of time, and then flies them back home before they can be identified and captured. They have a particular method of gaining entry and are careful about what they drive to blend in.

Several tips were given, as well as some tools the town is now using and may be suggesting that neighborhoods expand upon.

Please find all of the details of the Neighborhood Watch in the Belwood area on our Belwood Of Los Gatos Blog in this post: Neighborhood Watch.

 

Please get more safety tips at Make Your Home Look Occupied on this site.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Overcrossing Project – Blossom Hill Road over Highway 17

Bicycle and Pedestrian Overcrossing Project – Blossom Hill Road over Highway 17

The bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing project will more safely help to convey pedestrians, cyclists, and others over Highway 17 along Blossom Hill Road.

This area is busy with people on skateboards, bikes, scooters, on foot  as there are children going to and from school and residents walking to and from Vasona Lake County Park and Oak Meadow Park. The improvement will be a great boon for their safety. It’s been discussed for years but inch by inch, the project is starting to materialize. They’ve now picked the type of bridge that will be constructed, the box girder. Hopefully it will be finished by the end of 2025.

Today my better half snapped a photo of the sign for the bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing project. In case you haven’t seen it, here is an image:

 

Photo of the sign along Blossom Hill Road for the bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing project in Los Gatos, CA. This was taken on Blossom Hill Road.

Bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing project will help to prevent tragedies in the future

Locals know that Blossom Hill Road has a speeding problem the entire length of it in town. The Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department does its best to slow the flow of traffic here and throughout the area, but they cannot be everywhere at once.

Earlier this month there was a fatality at Blossom Hill and Belgatos Roads involving one car heading east on Blossom Hill Road and another turning left from Belgatos toward downtown. A crosswalk or light would be helpful in that area. We have seen a lot of officers and what looks like surveyors in that area recently. We are hopeful that safety improvements will be underway here too.

Other injuries and deaths have occurred elsewhere along Blossom Hill Road in Los Gatos, too often cars hitting pedestrians. It seems like every few years it happens again.

That car to person collision is more likely in areas with more non-vehicular traffic, and that’s the situation along the stretch of Blossom Hill Road between Oak Rim and Roberts near and across the Highway 17 overcrossing bridge.

More info

Want to stay current on  this project? Check out all of the information on the town’s website:

Highway 17 Bicycle & Pedestrian Overcrossing Project Page with Updates

Blossom Hill Road Traffic Safety

If you’d like to be notified about this project or other important meetings or discussions, you can sign up online for whatever notifications you prefer from the town here.

 

 

Defensible Space for Fire Resistance

Defensible space, combined with home fire hardening, can increase the odds of your house or home surviving a fire that comes onto your property. In Los Gatos, a large portion of our town, and neighboring unincorporated communities, falls under areas where homeowners are required to mitigate the wildfire risk by reducing fuel and taking other actions. We’ll look at where those areas are and what homeowners in them are required to do.

1 – Mandatory defensible space areas

Is your property in a mandatory defensible space zone? In Los Gatos, there are two listed types under this umbrella:

You can see if your Los Gatos home is in either of these zones by checking the town’s online map, a smaller version of which is below. Areas in red require defensible space criteria to be met and are in one area or the other.

 

Los Gatos - defensible space zones for fire risk mitigation

Click on image to view map on the town’s website – Los Gatos. Mandatory defensible space zones for fire risk mitigation are in red.

As you can see, many Los Gatos neighborhoods fall into this zone, including much of the Civic Center area, Vista del Monte, Glenridge, and many more.

What about unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno?

 

Cal Fire map of hazard severity zones

 

The town’s map is fairly busy and does not cover the unincorporated areas, or Monte Sereno. An easier one to zoom in on, and which is agnostic toward town boundaries, is on the Cal Fire site, but you will need to zoom quite a few times to see your area. I find this one much easier to read.

2 – What do you need to do to create defensible space in the high fire risk zones?

Laws regulating what must be done (and what can be done, in the case of additions and new construction) in the higher risk fire areas come from both the town and the state. Both of them aim to get residents to remove fuel, such as dead leaves, needles, plants, firewood, and so on are a major step. Thinning brush out, or thinning lower tree branches so that it’s harder for fire to spread is also key. Spacing trees and bushes away from each other, and especially from the house and chimney of homes in the high fire risk zones is crucial, too. Read on to get lists of what to clear out if your property is in these areas with increased fire risk. (more…)

Garden Against Fire!

Landscaping for Wildfire ProtectionThe Los Gatos Library will host an online class, Landscaping for Wildfire Protection

Coming up Thursday, September 24th from 6-7pm Pacific.

Does your garden fight fires? With fire season growing longer and fiercer each year with devastating losses, you might be wondering what you can do to lower risks and protect your property against wildfires. Especially if you live near one of the Bay Area’s beautiful greenspaces! Join the Los Gatos Library with speaker Barbara Hunt, UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, to learn about how wildfires spread and how to landscape to protect your home, from hardscapes to fire-resistant plants. This is a free lecture aimed at California homeowners but open to all.

For more information and the Zoom link, please view the event page.

Join the event on Facebook and set a reminder.

Want to learn more about fire in Los Gatos? Check out some of my other posts on this topic:

Los Gatos Fire Risk

Wildfire Evacuation Route Signs Being Installed (2016)

Fighting Fire With … Wine

A History of Los Gatos Fires and the Los Gatos Fire Department