With today’s news that areas in Chicago make the top 10 list of places burgled in the U.S., it makes sense to take the necessary precautions—even if your neighborhood isn’t on the top 10 list.
Tips to prevent home burglaries
Start outside: Burglars target your house by how it appears from the outside. Reformed burglars tell police they avoid houses with good lighting, any crunchy surface on driveways and patios that could make noise, an alarm box, CCTV cameras and signs of a dog in the house.
Tips to deter burglars on the outside of your home:
- Keep your home well lit—motion sensors, dusk-to-dawn lighting or timers all work
- Keep your shrubs and hedges trimmed—burglars love to hide behind shrubbery
- Gates, shrubs, etc. should be less than a couple feet high so your house is visible from the street
- Place a brightly colored burglar alarm to the front of your house in a prominent place
- Items like prickly bushes and flower pots under windows make a burglar’s life more difficult
- If you have a dog, make sure the burglar knows it, as most burglars won’t target a house that could have dogs
- Install video cameras
- In the backyard, a tall fence is a good security measure, but make sure it is topped with trellising that can’t support the weight of a human—most burglars are athletic and will try to jump a fence if they can, but tend to avoid those that might break underneath them or draw attention to them
- Don’t leave anything outside that would make the burglar’s life easier—this includes tools, gardening equipment, ladders, garden furniture, etc.
- Protect drainpipes with anti-climb paint
Tips to secure your garden shed:
- Make sure your shed is up to the task—if you think the structure won’t stop burglars, don’t leave anything of value in the shed, including tools, lawnmowers and bicycles
- Fit the shed windows with steel grates, if you can
- Install a cage inside your shed for valuable tools—but make sure it is securely attached
- Lock down ladders that could be used by a burglar to gain access to your home
When you’re home, don’t leave downstairs windows open in rooms you’re not occupying; burglaries happen very quickly and the 10 minutes you spend in another part of the house could be a burglar’s chance to climb in, take your belongings and leave before you’ve even realized he was there.
Single-glazed windows are particularly vulnerable to attack by burglars since plain glass is easily breakable. Consider replacing them if it is within your budget (or ask your landlord to if you’re renting).
Be sure to add additional locks to wooden and metal windows, sash windows in particular. They’re easy to install and the added safety will help secure your home.
You can’t always add additional locks to UPVC windows, but in certain cases they can be fitted as needed.
Regardless of the type of windows you have, they should be locked at all times you’re not using them.
Don’t forget to shut and lock your windows when you go out or go to bed. Upstairs windows should always be locked when you’re not home, and if you’re not using them when sleeping.
Doors and mail slots tempt would-be thieves—so if you have a mail slot, use a basket or cage on the inside, making it difficult or impossible for thieves to use a tool such as a fishing rod, stick or metal bar to steal items like your car and house keys. If you use a basket or cage on the inside of your mail slot, remove the bottom to prevent mail theft.
When it comes to doors, locks are king. Here are some things to look out for:
- Make sure your door frames are strong and fit well
- Ensure you have five-lever mortice deadlock (if your door is over 44mm)
- Have an internal security chain or stopper
- Glazed panels on doors should be avoided; if used, they should be laminated glass (two pieces of glass bonded together with a sheet of laminate), as laminated glass is much tougher to break
- UPVC doors normally come with deadlock shoot bolts or a multi-point locking system, adding several bolts from the door into the frame
- Install a peep hole or video camera, so you don’t open your door without knowing who is on the other side
- French doors and patio doors are often the weak link in a house’s security—ensure they have extra locks and security precautions installed; consult your local police or an expert for more information on securing these types of doors
Keep valuables out of sight, even if you’re leaving the room for just 10 minutes.
- Keep car keys far away from doors and windows, and never on display
- Keep laptops hidden securely when not in use
- Keep mobile phones and tablets away from prying eyes at windows, and when not in use, store them securely
- Don’t leave handbags, wallets, purses, chequebooks, cash or credit cards on display
Other home security and protection considerations
- If you’re going away, don’t advertise it on social media
- When you’re out of town, ask a neighbor to take out your trash
- Stop all deliveries if you’re out of town
- If you’re going on holiday, either leave your car in the driveway or ask a neighbor or friend to park there
- Don’t hide keys to your home outside—burglars know the spaces where people hide them, and it isn’t worth the risk
- Keep suitcases in the loft or attic, as thieves will use these to carry away your valuables
- Make sure you have sufficient insurance to protect you in case all of your precautions still result in your house being burgled
- Periodically take photos of the inside of your house and date them, so you can prove what items you own should you need to make an insurance claim
- Mark your belongings with an anti-theft marking pen, as this can help not only with you getting your items back, but also prosecuting the thief.