Top ten tips to securing your home against theft
Australians are increasingly worried by the threat of home burglary and the subsequent emotional and financial impact of a break-in.
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 per cent of the break-ins, the burglar was confronted by the householder and property was damaged in almost half (48 per cent) 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. Locksmiths can provide advice on 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 theives 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 defences
A high number of victims (60 per cent) 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 peep hole 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 stop 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.
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. Even installing a "Beware of the dog" sign can make thieves pause before targeting your home.
10. Make friends with your neighbours
In tightknit communities, people look out for each other. Neighbours can report suspicious activity at your home and help when you're away - and you can return the favour.