Residential break and enter is no longer an uncommon thing, and all indications are that the situation will not improve within the near future. What can you do to properly protect your home against the very real threat of break-in ? Fortunately, there are a significant number of very simple and effective ways to add protection to your home without going to great expense – none of which are foolproof, of course – but collectively, all of which will significantly decrease your odds of being one of the growing number of victims who now wish they had taken preventative measures before they were robbed!
All too often today, people feel that the solution to any problem is to throw high tech equipment at it, and then lean back and relax – thinking they have solved the problem! Yet often the simple, inexpensive measures can do as much or more to discourage burglars than can the expensive and sophisticated electronic solutions. Today, there are certain minimum steps which must be taken to ensure you don’t get broken into, and these will be outlined in order of importance.
The first step in really attacking this problem is to understand the profile of the typical housebreaker. There appear to be two distinct types of thieves. The first is young, most often male, and often relatively inexperienced in his approach to entering a premises – the simple “street thug”. Typically he carries few tools, and relies more on brute strength, or the carelessness of the homeowner, to gain access. Burglary to these thieves is a “crime of convenience”, often to finance a drug habit. The second and less common type of thief is what I call the “revolving door” thief. Typically older, in his twenties, he is somewhat more “professional”. He has been doing this for many years, and has come to view thievery as his “job”. As described to me by an Ottawa police officer, a picture of his operational lifestyle would be as follows:
“Steal a car, burglarize a home, do this as many times as he can before getting caught. Once caught, get out on bail, continue to steal until finally convicted of the first crime. Go to the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Detention Centre for three months of colour TV and ping pong. Get out again and repeat the procedure many times over, while living well on the proceeds gained from selling hot goods on the black market, all the while continuing to pursue his ‘career’ of break and enter”.
Regardless of the type of thief involved, there are three things that typically discourage them – time, noise and light ! By this, we mean they will not normally spend an inordinate length of time to gain entry; they will make as little noise as possible in doing so, and will avoid being seen !! So, it falls on you – the homeowner – to ensure that everything you do measurably increases these risks for them, and in so doing, decreases the risk for you.
There are three levels of security that can be applied to any residential situation. Make no mistake, they are all important, and must be considered if you are to ensure that you have done everything reasonable in your power to guard against break-in.!
The first is what we call “basic security”. You begin by developing a security conscious state of mind. The key here is to become “intelligently cautious” by habit , and not allow yourself to become paranoid or paralyzed by fear, as so often happens following a break-in. Remember, at a time of extreme emotional trauma following a burglary, you are in no position to be making rational decisions about security hardware !! . Specifically what you should do in advance is:
- Guard your keys well ! Be able to account for all copies, and if there is any doubt they have been “compromised”, simply have the locks rekeyed. This is not an expensive proposition , and is a “must do ” anytime you move into a new premises. Also, never include your address or phone number on the key ring. This gives anyone finding your lost keys easy access into your home (The War Amps provide a numbered certificate to put on your key ring which, when found and mailed to them, will ensure they are returned to you)
- Develop the habit of doing a walk around the inside of your home prior to leaving to ensure all doors and windows are closed and locked. Then religiously follow this routine! (One third of break-ins are through unlocked doors and windows)
- Ensure that you do not allow newspapers and mail to pile up in front of the house. This is a dead giveaway for thieves, and, in some high risk neighbourhoods almost guarantees you will be hit (we suggest going so far as putting your request in writing to the newspaper to emphasize your seriousness). Have a neighbour diligently pick up “junk mail” and assorted unsolicited flyers while you are away.
- Do not discard packing containers for such electronic items as computers, tablets, televisions, camcorders etc, without first cutting them up. Left on the curb for garbage pickup, they are an obvious advertisement for thieves, who do watch for them.
- Have your driveway shovelled or plowed during any absences in the winter, and your lawn cut during the summer months.
- Have a neighbour park his second car in your laneway when you will be absent. You should have someone check the house every 48 hours, to ensure your insurance coverage is not voided. Have that person change the position of drapes and blinds to ensure the house looks “lived in”.
- Trim any shrubbery that would provide cover for someone attempting to break into your home. Be particularly vigilant if your yard borders common areas such as schoolyards, bicycle paths, graveyards or parks – places where youth often congregate or walk.
- Lock any gates that provide access into the rear of your home.
- Ensure that your garage door is down and locked. Better yet, is to install an electronic garage door opener, and turn off the power to it when you leave for extended periods of time. (There are newer models which feature “code hopping” technology to prevent entry by generating codes via electronic means). If you have an electronic alarm system – consider having a sensor installed on the large door.
The key is to ensure you have taken all reasonable steps to ensure your home maintains that “lived in” look, especially when you are away for extended periods. Additional steps such as putting strategically placed lights on automatic timers, leaving radios playing, and installing security lighting are all useful steps.
The next and most important steps to take are in the area of Physical Security