Every minute and a half, there’s a residential break-in somewhere in the country, according to Insurance Bureau of Canada. Eighty per cent of those occur during the day, and most burglars force their way in by exploiting carelessness and security weaknesses, rather than advanced plotting and using sophisticated tools.
Comprehensive home insurance policies will cover the resulting losses or expenses (up to a limit), but most people would rather not have to claim a loss in the first place.
So what can you do to prevent break-ins?
To start with, make sure you close curtains at night so burglars have a harder time checking out your belongings and deciding your home would be a good target. Lock all doors and windows whenever you leave the house, and consider setting timers for lamps and stereos to make it seem as if people are still home. But if you’re away on holiday, keep some curtains open, and program timers so lights turn on at different times each day. The goal is to simulate normal use, and consistently illuminating the living room at exactly 6:15 p.m. could clue thieves in about the timer trick.
Other vacation tips include asking neighbours to park in your driveway and to put one of their garbage bins in front of your house on collection day, and stopping mail and newspaper delivery. Also consider writing your work address on your luggage tags so others in the airport or train station won’t know which home is empty.
An alarm system is another a good choice since it will give robbers less time to search for valuables and will quickly notify the authorities. It can also qualify you for a discount on your home insurance premiums. But don’t rely on the alarm alone—it’s better to discourage thieves from trying to break in than to have to use it.
In terms of your house’s exterior, trim trees and shrubs so they don’t block the front door. You don’t want to give thieves a hiding spot while they attempt to enter, or provide tree limbs for them to climb to access your upstairs windows. If there’s any glass less than 40 inches from a door’s lock, strengthen it with an acrylic or polycarbonate coating, or replace it with laminated or tempered glass. If a door’s hinges are outside, make sure its centre pins are non-removable, and consider installing security bars over basement windows.
It’s also not a good idea to leave a nameplate on your mailbox with your full name. That simply makes it easier for burglars to track down your phone number, which they can call to find out if you’re really home. Similarly, don’t leave a spare key in a flower pot or under the welcome mat. Thieves often know where to look, so it’s a better idea to give the key to a friend or neighbour, or consider installing a keypad.
If your home is broken into, always prioritize your safety. If the burglar could still be in the building, don’t confront them or try to restrain them. Instead, go to a neighbour’s house and contact the police from there. After you’ve made the police report, make a list of what’s been stolen and photograph any damage. Then contact your insurance representative to begin filing a claim.
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