According to the Ottawa Police Service, there were more than 2,000 home break and enter offenses in 2013. Though home insurance can help you recover some of the losses, ideally you’d like to avoid the stress and loss of a sense of security caused by a home break-in. To keep your peace of mind, here are ten easy acts you should do to keep your home as safe from intruders as possible:
No Easy Targets
Most residential thefts aren’t committed by sneaky and organized cat burglars. They are quick snatches by people looking for an easy target. Don’t make it easy on thieves – do not leave your expensive bike unchained on the front lawn. Don’t leave your new iPhone on the front porch while you go inside for more lemonade. If possible, don’t have your pricey plasma TV or gaming computer within easy view of uncovered front windows.
Illusion of Presence
Burglars don’t want to run into an angry homeowner, or even have to go through the hassle of tiptoeing around when you’re home sleeping. For this reason, it’s best to make it seem like you’re home all the time. Leave lights on, keep a television turned on, or have the radio playing throughout the day. Having a pet at home can also help create movement in the house.
Locking Windows & Doors
Even if you think you live in a safe neighbourhood, you should always lock your windows and doors at night and whenever you leave the house. Don’t forget about your patio doors! Make sure there is a bar or wood beam to stop burglars from being able to open the sliding door.
No Spare Key
Think of the common places you’d expect to find a key – under the welcome mat, beneath a flower pot, hidden in a fake rock? Well, thieves know about these places too. Instead, trust a spare key with a neighbour to keep inside their home. If you must have a spare key, put it into a combination lockbox that attaches securely to the door handle.
No Hiding Places
Do not have tall bushes, overgrown flowers, or large trees that block the view of your front, side, or back windows and doors (including the second storey). These act as hiding places for potential thieves, and even vigilant neighbours may not be able to spot a break-in in progress. So trim or clear away flowers, trees, and shrubs that obstruct the view.
If you are on vacation for a weekend or longer, get your neighbours or friends to help. If no one can housesit, at least get someone to collect mail. If you are away for an extended period, enlist help with snow shoveling or grass cutting. Set lights on timers so it appears you are home even if the house is empty.
Risks of Social Media
Beware that if announce your plans for vacation on social media, you may just be giving thieves a break-in schedule. So be cautious about sharing too much on social media. If you absolutely insist on sharing your schedule with the world, maybe throw in a little white lie: “so excited to be going to the Bahamas! Thanks to Aunt Mary for house sitting while we’re gone!”
Know Your Neighbours
Get to know your neighbours. For one, you’ll be more invested in their safety, and vice versa. You’ll also know more about them, which helps keeps you informed. For example, if you know George down the road has no children and does all his handiwork by himself, you would be right to be suspicious of a strange man skulking around the property.
You rely on your neighbours to stay vigilant or your behalf and scare away burglars, and you should return the favour. Keep your eyes peeled and alert the police if you notice any suspicious characters around. Help them out when they’re on vacation too.
Contact your local Community Police Centre for advice and recommendations on what you can do to keep your home secure. Police know exactly what kind of things attract burglars, and can identify what you can do as a homeowner to avoid an intrusion.
Don’t let your home be an easy target for thieves. If you do happen to experience a break-in, report the incident to police and contact your home insurance broker to get your claim started.