Returning home and finding that your house or apartment has been ransacked and valuables stolen is a horrible experience. This terrible experience makes people feel anxious and insecure in their homes. The sad fact is that in many cases the homeowners themselves failed to take adequate security precautions.
Here are some pointers highlighting some of the most common home security failings that have resulted in people becoming crime victims. Take heed of these and make sure your home is not targeted by criminals.
Don’t Advertise Your Wealth
Advertising your wealth will act as an invitation to thieves. If criminals learn that your home contains valuable items that they can sell then you might be targeted.
The rubbish that you dispose of in your refuse bins and outside your home can often signal what you own. For example, if you have purchased new electronic items such as laptops, tablets and games consoles you might leave the packaging outside for collection. Criminals who see these boxes will immediately know that you have some brand new, valuable electronic items that they can potentially re-sell.
It’s also important to be aware of the documentation and letters that you are disposing of in your rubbish. Criminals are known to sift through people’s refuse, searching for documents and letters that will give them an advantage. They might even be able to gather enough data to steal someone’s identity. As a rule you should always shred or burn documentation that contains personal details such as bank accounts.
Be aware of what can be seen inside your home, through your windows or in your yard. Criminals are always on the lookout for valuables so try to make certain there is nothing that would tempt opportunist thieves that can be easily seen through your windows or in your yard.
Don’t Provide Concealment Opportunities
High fences, hedges and walls are highly effective in maintaining privacy and preventing passers-by from seeing into your garden or yard. But these boundaries can also provide burglars with the cover they need as they break into your home.
It’s important to become aware of areas around your property that will potentially provide cover for burglars and to take appropriate precautions. Lighting that’s triggered by motion can be a highly effective deterrent. Combine this with CCTV cameras carefully located around your property, with warning signage, to deter opportunist break-ins.
Never Hide Keys Outdoors
This is still a common practice in many households. Some households use fake rocks which are specifically designed to store keys. But criminals know about these and can easily spot rocks which don’t look right. They are also aware of all of the common key hiding places such as underneath plant pots.
Ideally, every person who needs keys to their home should have their own. A spare set of house keys might be held by a friendly neighbour, for use in emergencies, but these must always be securely locked away and importantly, they should never be labelled with the address.
Keep Your Travel Plans Secret
If criminals get to know that you are going on vacation and they already know that there are valuables in your home this would provide a strong enticement and potential opportunity for them to break in and steal your belongings.
While social media is great for staying in touch with friends and family it’s also used a lot by criminals who are on the lookout for opportunities. It’s therefore essential not to proudly announce how you are counting down to your imminent vacation. Even if your social media account settings mean that your posts are shared with a private group there is the possibility that someone might inadvertently let the wrong people know about your forthcoming vacation.
It’s also important to ensure that, while you are away, there are no signals from your home indicating that you’re not there. A build up of mail, for example, is a tell-tale sign that the homeowner isn’t their to collect their mail. Another signal would be the lights from your home in the dark evenings. Local criminals will potentially notice a property which normally has lights on in the evenings but which is now in complete darkness.
Before going away, you might arrange for mail to be redirected or retained with the post office until you return. But a better alternative is to ask a trusted neighbour to collect your mail and not allow it to build up. Putting lights on timers so that they automatically switch on in the evenings is another effective tactic. The same timer technique can be used to turn radios and televisions on and off, giving the external appearance of people being at home.
Double Check all Windows and Doors are Locked
By far the most common points of entry used by criminals to gain access to private homes is via their doors and windows. In many cases criminals don’t have to try very hard because the homeowners have simple left their doors or windows unlocked.
Whenever you leave your home unoccupied make certain that all doors and windows are closed and locked. Importantly, don’t overlook your garage, shed or outbuildings. Thieves know that people store valuable collections of tools, garden furniture, barbecues and much more in their outbuildings and that security around these is often weak.
Use High Quality Door and Window Locks
While it’s vitally important to make certain your doors and windows are securely locked while you are away from home it’s equally important to make certain you are using only high quality, high security door and window locks.
If the locks on your doors and windows are of low quality criminals will recognise and exploit this weakness. But if your doors and windows are rigorously secured with high quality locks and possibly additional security features such as window bars and shed door bars then criminals will be deterred.
Don’t Leave Ladders or Tools Outdoors
If you leave ladders or tools (such as garden tools) outdoors, in your yard, you are possibly providing criminals with exactly what they need to penetrate your property. A ladder will enable a burglar to access an upper storey window and a spade might be used to force the window open.
Most house-breakers don’t go out equipped with ladders and heavy tools so don’t make life easy by providing what they need to break into your home.
Secure Your Outbuildings
It’s important to remind people that they often have a lot of valuable equipment stored in their garages, sheds and other outbuildings. It can be worthwhile taking an inventory of everything you store in your outbuildings and adding up how much it would cost you to replace it all. People are often staggered at what it costs to replace their ride-on mowers, garden tools and furniture, barbecues and workshop tools.
Garages and sheds are often far easier to access than houses and apartments. Criminals have even been known to lift the rooftops from sheds as they know this is a weak point in many shed designs.
It’s important to bolster security around your outbuildings. Make certain you are using high security locks, padlocks and hasps and consider installing window bars and using a shed door bar. Look out for weaknesses, such as shed roofs that can be easily removed, and take steps to resolve these weaknesses.
Time to Strengthen Your Home Security
The right time to assess and strengthen your home security is now! Don’t put this off, deal with it immediately so that you have time to fix everything that needs fixing.
Take stock of your perimeter security, looking out for weaknesses that need to be strengthened. Determine whether security around your home would be improved by installing proximity sensitive lighting and maybe a CCTV system. Ensure that the door and window locks around your home and outbuildings are high quality and very secure. Look for other ways in which your home security can be improved such as installing an alarm system.
Importantly, make certain you have taken every possible precaution to avoid your home being attacked by criminals while you are away on vacation.