Every minute and a half, there’s a residential break-in somewhere in the country, according to the property and casualty insurer SGI Canada. Eighty per cent of those occur during the day, and most burglars force their way in by exploiting carelessness and security weaknesses, rather than advanced plotting and using sophisticated tools.
Comprehensive home insurance policies will cover the resulting losses or expenses (up to a limit), but most people would rather not have to claim a loss in the first place. So what can you do to prevent break-ins?
How To Protect Your Home Against Break-Ins
In general, make sure you close curtains at night so burglars have a harder time checking out your belongings and deciding your home would be a good target. Of course, always lock all doors and windows whenever you leave the house. You might also consider setting timers for lights and electronics to make it seem as if people are still home. If you’re looking to stop thieves from entering your home, you need to think in three main categories – Outside, inside, and while you’re on vacation. Here are tips to deter burglars in each category.
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Prevent thieves from entering on the outside
An alarm system is a good choice since it will give robbers less time to search for valuables and will quickly notify the authorities. It can also qualify you for a discount on your home insurance quotes, if it’s centrally monitored. But don’t rely on the alarm alone—it’s better to discourage thieves from trying to break in than to have to use it.
Keep up with gardening
Trim trees and shrubs so they don’t block the front door. You don’t want to give thieves a hiding spot while they attempt to enter. Don’t provide tree limbs for them to climb to access your upstairs windows. A properly maintained lawn and garden will make it look like you’re always there, even when you’re not.
On entry doors
If there’s any glass less than 40 inches from a door’s lock, strengthen it with an acrylic or polycarbonate coating, or replace it with laminated or tempered glass. If a thief can break the glass, the lock is easy to open. Also, if a door’s hinges are on the outside, make sure the hinges’ centre pins are non-removable. A flat head screwdriver and a hammer is all they need to take the door right off the hinges. If you live in an area known for thieves entering a home, you could consider installing security bars over basement windows.
Maintain your privacy
It’s also not a good idea to leave a nameplate on your mailbox with your full name. That simply makes it easier for burglars to track down your phone number, which they can call to find out if you’re really home.
Showcase your house number
If your home’s number is brightly lit, it makes it easier for the authorities to find your home in case of emergency. Thieves stay away from lights.
Stow away your valuables
Don’t leave a spare key in a flower pot or under the welcome mat. Thieves often know where to look, so it’s a better idea to give the key to a friend or neighbour, or consider installing a keypad, a smart lock, or wifi doorbell camera.
Also, if you can, stow away your grills, smokers, bikes, and patio furniture, do it. If a thief doesn’t know they exist, they can’t steal the stuff. Try to lock them up if you can’t tow – bike locks, or steel cable can be used to wrap around patio furniture. A thief will likely turn away if you make it difficult to steal.
Get to know your neighbours
Tight knit communities have lower crime rates because, If you know your neighbours, and especially if they like you, they may interfere with a thieves attempt to steal your stuff. It also helps even more if you have opposing schedules and there is constant action. Also, if you’re away, ask if they’ll bring your waste bins to the front and collect your mail to get that “lived-in” look.
A light on a timer could eventually be dissected by a thief. A motion sensor that turns the light on as you walk by could scare them off. As a side bonus, it’ll also scare off nocturnal rodents.
Build a fence
If you have a chain link fence, they’re very easy to climb and hop over. They also expose all your contents – backyard toys, patio furniture to suspicious eyes. If you build a wood fence that is harder to climb over and you can’t see through, you won’t be provoking a would be thief.
Secure your car
If your only option is street parking, try to park in a well-lit area. Don’t leave valuables like cell phones, purses, cash (even coins), or GPS devices inside. Never leave anything of value in plain view, and always lock the doors and roll up windows. Securing your car is extra important because while a smashed window affects your auto insurance, your valuables within the car are protected under your home insurance. You’d need to file two separate claims – that’s a hassle.
Pro-Tip: If you bundle your home and car insurance in Ontario, or other privatized insurance province, you can save up to 25% and create a smoother claims experience.
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How to setup your home on the inside to deter burglars
If you move into a new place, change the locks. You never know who has an extra set of keys.
When you get the new keys, don’t label them with anything identifiable – it just makes it faster for them to get inside. Don’t leave your keys by the front door where they could quickly grab and run away with them.
Finally, secure your valuables in a safe box. Ideally, buy a safe that can be secured to a wall, a thief could still walk away with a safe despite its weight if they believe it has jewellery inside. You should put your passports, wills, and health documents in the safe and keep it out of site.
Don’t leave valuables in plain site. At the very least, put them in closets and drawers, or even under the bed. If a thief does get in, they need to think and move fast. They’ll take what is in plan view and what they can carry.
Prevent thieves from entering your home while you’re on vacation
If you’re away on holiday, keep some curtains open, and program timers so lights turn on at different times each day. The goal is to simulate normal use, and consistently illuminating the living room at exactly 6:15 p.m. could clue thieves in about the timer trick. You can achieve this with smart home devices like the Lutron Caseta wireless lights. You can program lighting to turn off based on the randomization of a sunset or to fluctuate everyday while you’re away.
Other vacation tips include asking neighbours to park in your driveway, and to put one of their garbage bins in front of your house on collection day. You should either stop mail and newspaper delivery while you’re gone, or have a neighbour you trust collect it. Also consider writing your work address on your luggage tags so others in the airport or train station won’t know which home is empty.
The Bottom Line
If your home is broken into, always prioritize your safety. If the burglar could still be in the building, don’t confront them or try to restrain them. Instead, go to a neighbour’s house and contact the police from there. After you’ve made the police report, make a list of what’s been stolen and photograph any damage. Then contact your insurance representative to begin filing a claim.