Statistics Canada reports that of 230,000 break-ins across the country in 2007, about 60% (almost 140,000) were residential. While the installation of alarm systems and motion detectors have contributed to a steady reduction in home break-ins in recent years, alone they may not deter a determined thief. They should be combined with other measures that help keep burglars from finding your home an attractive target.
Make your home less vulnerable by following these tips.
Outside the home
You want your home to appear impenetrable. If it looks difficult to break into, chances are a burglar will move on to another target.
- Keep shrubs and bushes well trimmed and away from your doorways. This helps eliminate possible hiding places for intruders.
- Make sure that yard work tools are not left out. They can be used by an intruder to break into your home.
- Consider installing lights or motion detectors around the exterior of your house.
- Never hide extra keys outdoors, especially in obvious places such as door ledges, mailboxes or under the mat.
- Home alarm systems or dogs that bark at strangers are great deterrents for burglars, as are signs like “beware of the dog” and home alarm stickers placed on your doors and windows.
- Do not put a sign with your family name on the outside of your house. A thief could look up your number in the phone book and call to see if anybody’s home.
- If you go out, never leave a note on your door indicating when you will be back.
Doors and windows
These are the main entry points of your home. Make sure they are secure and difficult to get through.
- Always lock your doors and windows. A surprising number of robberies occur through unlocked doors or windows. An open window seen from the street can seem like an invitation to enter your home. And don’t forget to lock your garage door.
- Exterior doors should be of a strong, solid material and equipped with high-quality locks.
- Secondary locks on doors and windows act as an added deterrent.
- Always change the locks when you move to a new home or if you lose your keys.
- Install security bars on your basement windows.
- Sliding doors should be secured with a stick or metal bar. The stationary door pane should also be secured; otherwise it can be easily lifted off the track. Use an auxiliary lock or door pins hooked into the frame.
Protecting valuable items
If a burglar can spot valuable items from the street, it’s like an invitation to come in.
- Never leave valuables in places where they can be seen through a door or window. Consider placing items like expensive jewellery or stock certificates in a safety deposit box. Or invest in a fireproof safe for your home.
- Engrave your drivers’ license number on your valuables. And keep an inventory stored in a safe place.
When you’re away from home
Your goal when you are away on vacation should be to make it look like someone is still living in your home.
- Use timers on your lights, stereos and televisions. The lights and noise will give the impression that someone is home. Setting lights to go on and off at irregular intervals makes it look like someone is moving through the rooms of the house, as they would be if you were home.
- Cancel your newspaper and ask a neighbour or friend to pick up your mail.
- Hire someone to cut your grass or shovel the snow. Ask a neighbour to leave a bag of their garbage out at your house on pick-up day.
- Leave a car in the driveway. If you take your car on vacation, ask a neighbour to park in your driveway.
- Turn down the ringer on your telephone. Do not change your phone message to say you are away.
- Turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet. Make it difficult to access any personal information you may have on your hard drive.
- Make sure you let your neighbours know if you’re planning to be away, even if it’s just for the weekend. That way, they can keep an eye out for any unusual activity around your home.
- Before leaving, do a complete check of your home to verify that everything is secure.
Always be aware and prepared
Know what to watch and listen for, and be smart when talking to strangers.
- Make sure trusted neighbours and friends have a way to reach you, in case they notice something strange happening around your home.
- Report suspicious activities in your neighbourhood such as unknown persons hanging around, slow moving vehicles circling the block, unusual noises or unfamiliar parked cars.
- Do not allow strangers into your home. If someone knocks on your door and says they are hurt or need help, keep your door locked and call the police for them.
- When replying to calls from strangers, such as people who say they are telemarketers or conducting a survey, never mention when you are planning to be away. Likewise, do not discuss travel plans in public places where you don’t know who may be listening.