Odds are that some day your home will be broken into. In fact, over 450,000 Canadian households were burglarized in 1998. The best way to minimise your risk of becoming a victim is to become aware of what burglars look for. By eliminating any vulnerable points of entry and taking some security measures, you can reduce your chances of becoming a crime statistic.

Tips:

  • Don't leave a spare key outside. Burglars know the likely hiding spots: under a mat or planter, or on top of the doorframe. Insurance companies tend not to be too co-operative when they discover you provided the key! If you must leave a spare key outside choose a spot far from the door-in the backyard or better yet with a trustworthy neighbour.

  • Take extra precautions when you are out for the day. Most burglaries occur during the day when the occupants are at work. Remove any obstructions which a burglar could use for cover in front of your home. Trim back bushes so that any suspicious activity can be seen from the street. Turn on a radio, especially a station with talk shows, to make it seem like someone is home.

  • Use an automatic timer. Turning on a few dim lights when you go out is not a significant deterrent to crime. Most burglars know that most people who are at home have at least one room well lit and turn on other lights as they move around their home. An automatic timer can be used to turn lights, radios and televisions on and off in realistic patterns.

  • Add security peepholes to your front and back doors. These devices are available at most hardware stores and don't require any handyman skills other than drilling a hole into the door.

  • Make it look like you're home even when you're on vacation. Stop delivery of newspapers and have the post office to hold your mail. Ask a neighbour to pick up any junk mail or free newspapers that get deposited on your doorstep. If you will be gone for more than a week, arrange to have your grass cut or snow removed.

  • Get a safety deposit box. It may seem inconvenient but it's a foolproof way to protect your valuables especially when you're on vacation.

  • Consider getting a dog. Not only are they great companions they are natural alarm systems. It's not important whether it's large or small as long as it likes to bark at strangers on your property.

  • Mark valuables such as stereos, televisions and cameras. Engrave your driver's license number on these items with an engraving tool available through your local police department.

  • Disperse your valuables throughout your home. Make it harder for the thief to find all your jewellery or spare cash by hiding it in different places. (Thieves are onto homeowners who hide them in the ice cube tray or anywhere in the fridge so choose other locations.)

  • Never leave windows open even if you are only going to the corner store. Professional burglars can be in and out of a home in less than ten minutes. Crime statistics show that first floor windows are the second most common point of entry after the front door.

  • Invest in an alarm system. Ask friends and neighbours if they know of a reliable security company. If you can't afford an alarm system you can use official-looking alarm system stickers for your doors and windows (available at hardware stores) in the meantime.

  • Use motion sensor alarms inside your home. These devices use a laser which can detect motion even in pitch black rooms. They are inexpensive ($25-45) and run on batteries. Position the sensor at a height that will avoid pets and aim it toward an area a thief would likely pass. Turn on your motion sensor at night and enjoy greater peace of mind (although remember to turn it off before you walk past it in the morning as it can be a rude awakening!)

  • Ensure the exterior of your home is properly lit. A dark yard makes a home easy prey.

  • If you want to add a lock to your door be sure that a burglar could not reach it by putting an arm through a broken window. Also note that spring locks, with the keyhole in the doorknob are easy to jimmy. It's better to use a deadbolt lock with a one-inch throw, a 5- or 6- pin tumbler cylinder and a cylinder guard ring.

These precautions should deter all but the most persistent thieves. A house that poses several obstacles stacks the odds in the homeowner's favour-chances are that the would-be thieves will move onto a more inviting house and leave your belongings and sense of security intact.

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