We all know the basic rules for not attracting thieves to our homes: pick up the mail and newspapers, keep the grass cut and so forth. And we know it’s important to have home insurance to protect our property from theft as well as fire and other perils. But what else can we do to discourage home intruders? Here are five suggestions:
1. Watch what you say online
Can’t wait to tell your friends about your planned trip to Bora Bora? Don’t do it on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, says Rob McDonald, crime prevention and social media officer for Toronto Police Service. Or better yet, wait until you’re back from your journey. Despite the availability of privacy settings, nothing is 100% private on the Internet, he notes. “The rule of thumb should be, ‘Would you share this information with a random person on the street?’ If the answer is no, then don’t post it,” he says. “Also watch for saying things online like ‘How are you getting to the airport or train station?’ ”
2. Inspect your doors and windows
Locking your doors and windows is a given, but that in itself won’t necessarily scare off perpetrators, says McDonald. Depending on the type of door and lock, an intruder may still be able to get in. A steel door, for instance, is harder to open than a wooden door, and a deadbolt lock with a long bolt is better than one with a short one, and both are better than a spring-bolt lock. Also examine your door frames for wear and tear. “Sometimes we’ll find a door has been compromised because the frame is weak,” he says.
You may secure your basement windows or patio doors by inserting a piece of wood in the track. But most people cut the wood too short so they can easily open the window — not so great for intruder protection. “If you leave the wood too short, the window can be jimmied open,” he notes. McDonald’s suggestion? Put a screw in the top and bottom frame of the window to hold the wood securely in the track.
Finally, change your locks after you take possession of a house or complete renovations. You want to limit the number of people who have key access to your home, says McDonald.
3. Store valuables in less-obvious places
Remember, thieves want to be in and out of a house as quickly as possible. McDonald notes that the master bedroom and bathrooms are the first places intruders will check for valuables. So, make it difficult for them to be found by storing them in less conspicuous places — not under the bed or in the freezer, for example.
If you have a home safe, make sure it’s a heavy, fireproof model that’s bolted to the floor. Otherwise, the intruders may just take the safe with them and jimmy it open off-site, says McDonald.
4. Secure your important papers and photos
Take digital photos of your valuables, record the serial numbers and store information on a jump drive, perhaps at an offsite location such as in a safety deposit box, says McDonald. “If we have a picture of something it’s easier to recover it than if we just have a written description,” he says.
Lock up your bank statements, will, bills, passports, jump drives, user IDs and passwords in a filing cabinet, suggests Lee Anne Davies, founder of Agenomics, a consulting firm in Victoria, B.C. Keep the key in another discreet location in your home. While a bunch of paperwork may not seem as alluring to thieves as electronics, money or jewellery, she notes that identity theft is on the rise. “I suggest you ask your credit organization to put on your file that no credit can be put into your name until a phone call confirms you have requested that credit,” she says. “That can protect you from identity theft.”
5. Think like a thief
Step onto your porch and look through the window. Do you see your iPad on the couch or the $50 you threw down on your kitchen island? Then so can other people. Either keep your curtains closed or move valuables away from public view, says McDonald. Families will often leave things like wagons and strollers unsecured on their porches or patios, thinking that nobody will take them. But some strollers cost as much as bikes in today’s break-and-enter market, he says. Bring them inside or lock them in the garage or shed.