An empty home is a prime target for intruders because they have less chance of being disturbed and the offence can go undetected for days or even weeks. Intruders always look for signs that a home is unoccupied. The longer the home is unoccupied, the more vulnerable it becomes. If you are away for an extended period of time, police advise that you have someone house sit.
Follow these tips for keeping your house secure while you’re away:
Inform local police of your absence and leave a contact name and number.
Check all doors and windows are securely locked.
Ask your neighbours to watch for visitors but not to tell visitors you are away.
Arrange a friend or neighbour to mow the lawn and water the plants.
Arrange for mail to be held at the Post Office or collected by a neighbour.
Cancel all deliveries, especially newspapers.
Ask your neighbours to collect junk mail.
Secure your garbage bin.
Install electrical timers that automatically switch on lights and tune your radio to a talk-back program during the day so that your house looks and sounds “normal”.
Disconnect the electrical pad on radio controlled or electronic garage doors and use a strong auxiliary key lock instead.
Turn down the volume of your telephone ringer and don’t leave a message on your answering machine that tells callers you’re away.
Install external sensor lights.
Check the yard to ensure no ladders or tools are accessible.
Don’t leave keys concealed outside the house. Give them to a trusted friend or neighbour.
Ask neighbours to contact police if they notice anything suspicious.
Secure your vehicle if leaving it at home.
Ask a neighbour to park their car in your driveway at different times.
Ensure all easily removable articles are marked using the Property Identification System.
If you’re a member of Neighbourhood Watch, inform your neighbours and block coordinator that you will be away.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that in the twelve months prior to its Crime Victimisation Survey 2009-10, 254,500 households were the victims of at least one break-in to their home, garage or shed and 203,700 households were victims of an attempted break-in.
The ABS reported that break-ins were down slightly on the previous year (in NSW and WA) or stable (in the other States). The survey found that in 10 percent of the break-ins, the burglar was confronted by the householder and property was damaged in almost half (48 percent) of incidents.
Add to these findings US research that suggests that it takes an average of four months to recover from the stress of a break-in and it’s clear there can be more to deal with than just replacing the stolen items.
With a few straightforward steps gleaned from police experience around the country, however, you can help protect your home and belongings from thieves.
1. All locked up
Police suggest many opportunistic thieves take advantage of unlocked homes. Even if you are going out for a short time, lock-up your house and windows. Attend Locksmiths can provide advice on the appropriate door and window locks, and key all the windows to a single key.
Also, ask your electricity supplier about locks for your power supply to prevent tampering, and keep your car locked. Police in Bundaberg, Queensland, for instance, have reported a case of a garage door opener stolen from a car, later used to burgle the owner’s property.
2. Don’t provide cover
Deter thieves from targeting your house by ensuring a clear line of sight from the street. Cut back trees and bushes that obscure your front door, look into installing movement sensor lights and report broken street lights straight away. Police also suggest making sure your house number is visible for the fastest response if you need to call for help.
3. Upgrade your defenses
A high number of victims (60 percent) in the ABS research cited a door or window had been damaged or tampered with in attempted break-ins, so it pays to invest in strengthening these defences. A solid core door with a deadlock, for example, is harder to force, grilles and shutters prevent burglars from breaking in through windows, and a peephole or lockable security screen can help keep burglars out.
4. Monitor all targets
Garages and garden sheds are often targets for burglars who can then use your tools or ladders to gain access to the main house (police even report wheelie bins used to smash windows). An automatic light, for instance, fitted to the shed or garage can be a useful deterrent, along with keyed locks.
5. Security doesn’t take a holiday
Ask friends to collect your mail and to remove junk mail from building up in your letterbox while you’re away from home. A neighbour parking in your driveway can also help signal the house is not unoccupied. Other measures could include internal lights or a radio set on timers and organising for someone to mow your lawn.
6. Guard your keys
Most people know not to hide keys somewhere about the house but are you also aware that lending your keys to tradespeople and acquaintances can pose a risk? Keys are easily copied and can provide burglars with fast, no-fuss access to your belongings unless you have security key which will stop duplication.
7. Store valuables in a safe
According to the ABS Crime Victimisation Survey 2009-10, money and jewellery are most often stolen in break-ins. Installing a small safe in your home is a relatively low-cost way to protect those items.
8. Don’t advertise valuables
Break up packaging for expensive new gear before tucking it into the bin or recycling. Also, take a look at your house from the outside. With most thieves looking for cash, even a wallet or iPod left on your hall table can make your home a target. Speaking of valuables, police advise making an inventory of your belongings to have at hand in case of a break-in. Mark your property using an engraver or ultra-violet markers and take photos of precious, one-of-a-kind possessions.
9. Install an alarm or deter thieves with a dog
Add another layer of defence to your home with an alarm system. A barking dog can also provide effective security for your home & drive your neighbours MAD. Even installing a “Beware of the dog” sign can make thieves pause before targeting your home.
10. Make friends with your neighbours
Neighbours can report suspicious activity at your home and help when you’re away – and you can return the favour.
The Number 1 defence
- Quality Locks (This will buy you time)
- Alarm System (This will alert you)
- CCTV (This will help Police)