Many think of burglars as wearing black ski masks and creeping around your home in the dead of night. The fact is that many home robberies take place in the light of day and by very average looking people. There are millions of home burglaries every year in North America alone, that’s one about every 15 seconds.
In the majority of cases there was some form of forcible entry, but in over 30% of incidences, thieves simply gained access through an open door or window. The fact is, it's actually not that hard to get into the average house. Most homes have weak points, and seasoned thieves are pretty good at finding them. Although home burglaries may seem random in occurrence, they usually involve a selection process of some sort. The best way to handle thieves in this way is to pre-empt their plans with proven preventive measures.
Home alarm systems are perhaps the most popular method of keeping your home safe. Aside from being quite affordable, they now offer comprehensive features and are a great deterrent to would-be thieves.
- When utilizing an alarm system for your home, try and remember that it’s not an impenetrable force field. Realistically, if the alarm is tripped, then someone has already broken in. Think of it more as a last line of defense and don’t ignore the other precautions you need to keep your home safe.
- Alarm systems definitely make your home a less favourable target for thieves, but you do need to make it apparent that you have one. Although it might affect your property aesthetics somewhat, try and make use of signs and window decals that tell the world that you’re protected.
- Although there are wireless security systems available on the market that you can install yourself, it’s probably a better idea to have your system installed and maintained by a professional company. A monitored alarm service offers the advantage of contacting you for a password if the alarm is tripped and dispatching the police if trouble arises. Monitored systems can also respond in the event of fire, high carbon monoxide levels, gas leaks or flooding.
- All systems should have an audible horn or siren to be effective in case someone does break in. However, these audible alarms should be programmed to reset automatically after several minutes.
- There is a lot of technology available for home security systems now, and can include cameras, motion detectors, door and window contacts, heat and weight sensors, window foil, keypads and video displays. Many of these systems can also be monitored and controlled remotely using mobile devices.
- If you use a central station to monitor your alarm, make sure your response call list is up to date
- Be sure to keep your keypad password simple enough for you to remember, but difficult enough so that it’s not too easy for someone else to guess. Also keep the password limited to just a few people and change it right away if you think that it’s been compromised.
Keys & Access
Hiding keys under the doormat, on top of the doorframe or in one of those fake plastic rocks may have worked at one point, but pretty much everyone is now hip to these ‘tricks’.
When you hide your house key in an obvious place, you may be reducing your inconvenience in case you lock yourself out, but you definitely run the risk of providing easy access to a thief.
- If you do need to hide a key on the property, be creative. If a friend can guess where it is on the first try, pick a new spot. The safest place would actually be with a neighbour or two.
- If you're constantly locking yourself out, you might want to invest in an access keypad or fingerprint door lock
- Always be sure to change locks or keypad codes when you first move in and if you end a relationship with someone who had access to your place. You’ll have no idea if copies of the keys were made or who might know your codes.
The very first lesson at burglary school is ‘Don't get caught’. The first step in avoiding capture is avoiding detection in the first place, and that’s where a well-lit home and property can help. Although a lot of burglaries take place during the day, darkness still provides great cover.
Outdoors, it's all about visibility. Solar yard or path lights help, but are likely too dim to be very effective for security. Ultimately you’ll need bright perimeter lighting that will expose trespassers and serve as a deterrent to anyone with ill intentions.
Focus on entryways, outbuildings such as sheds or anywhere else where someone could hide.
In order to avoid constant light pollution and excessive power use, be sure to employ motion or heat detectors to automatically turn the exterior lights on and off. Also keep the lights high enough off the ground to avoid tampering.
For interior lighting, it’s necessary to demonstrate occupancy, activity and routine in order to throw off anyone who may be casing your home. You could have a friend, family member or neighbour stop by your place daily to turn lights off and on, or you can utilize automatic timer units to get the same result. These same light timers can also be used to turn on radios or television sets to further enhance the illusion of someone being home.
Doors & Windows
If a thief makes it past your lighting and warnings of an alarm system without being deterred, you pretty much have one last shot to stop the break-in -- at the point of entry. Remember that the harder it is to gain access, the more likely a thief is to simply bypass your home.
- Doors are not a place on your home where you want to be cheap. Go with solid wood or metal for strength and use reinforced glass where possible. Also include a wide-angle security peephole to screen visitors.
- Use high quality door lock hardware including a dead latch mechanism on the knob-in-lock set and a deadbolt with a deep throw. Consult a locksmith for recommendations on the best approach for your home.
- Thieves know that homeowners often don’t think so much about back doors and entry through the garage when it comes to door and hardware quality. Be sure that all entry points are as secure as they can be.
- As strong as your door may be, most strike plates are cheap and are only screwed lightly into the surrounding molding. Use a high quality strike plate on all exterior doors and secure with 3” screws to get right into the doorframe.
- Sliding glass doors are secured by latches rather than locks and are vulnerable to being forced open from the outside or actually being lifted right off their tracks. The most common remedy is using a sturdy piece of wood along the tracks to prevent opening. There are also a number of different track blockers and devices available from your local hardware store to keep these doors secure.
- For windows, be sure that they are fitted with good quality locks, and that you use secondary blocking devices to keep them secure and from being lifted out. Try to keep them open no more than 6 inches for ventilation and make sure that someone can’t reach in to unlock a nearby door. Using reinforced glass for ground level windows can also help to prevent easy access to your home.
Here are a few more things that you can do to help keep your home safe from the bad guys.
- Trim back trees and bushes around your home that could serve as handy hiding places for those trying to break in
- Take a look through your windows from the outside to get a better sense of what valuables might be visible to someone casing your home. You may need to be a little more discrete with what you have lying around.
- Be sure that exterior wires for your phone and alarm system are hidden and secure to avoid having them cut
- Keep your garage clear so that you’re actually able park in it. Not only does it help to keep your vehicle from being broken into, but it can keep others guessing as to your comings and goings.
- Having a home safe installed is always a good idea to help prevent loss due to smash-&-grab burglaries and to keep important documents or irreplaceable items secure. Try and have it placed somewhere not quite so obvious as the den or master bedroom closet.
- Try and avoid putting your travel plans on social media if you can help it. A message such as ‘Just started our 2 week vacation in Rome’ can easily be translated as ‘You now have 2 weeks to come over and rob us’.
- Having a large dog on the property has always been viewed as a good deterrent to thieves. Although a lot of breeds may simply roll over to have their belly rubbed, they may be able to muster some decent barking if they hear something. At the very least, the presence of a dog can be enough to have a thief pass your house by.
- Having a good network of neighbours that watch out for each other can be a valuable tool in promoting residential safety. Not only can they report anything suspicious in your absence, but they can also keep an eye on property maintenance services for you, collect your mail and newspapers, hold your house keys for others and help with any issues that may arise if there is a break-in at your place.
A little planning and a moderate investment in security resources goes a long way in securing your home and keeping your family safe. Also remember that being a victim of robbery goes beyond the valuables that you might lose, and can leave your family feeling vulnerable and violated for years to come.