Safeguarding your Home Against Break and Enters

Having worked as a police officer in Vancouver, BC I have personally attended many calls for breaking and entering. In each case, the victims suffered financial loss in property stolen and/or damage to their homes as well as were made to feel violated by the fact that an intruder was in their home. Most break and enters occur during the day when people are at work and no one is home. Although there is no perfect solution to the problem, there are safe guards that people can take to decrease the chance that their home will be targeted. The following is a list of some of the safeguards people can take to decrease the chance of having their home broken into:

  • Deadbolts - people should make sure that they have deadbolts installed in all doors and the deadbolt itself should be at least 1½ - 2 inches in length. Deadbolts shorter than this are easier to pry open with a screwdriver. Along the same lines, if people can install a metal plate alongside the door, better yet as this further impedes the criminal’s ability to pry open the deadbolt.
  • If you have ground floor windows including sliding glass doors, keep them closed and locked when you go out. Even when you are home, if you decide that you want to leave a window open for fresh air, make sure your window has a metal peg installed in the sill so that it will only open so far. This will impede someone from sliding it open wide enough to gain access.
  • Although a lot of people do it, it’s really not a good idea to leave ladders attached to your backyard fence. Try to leave them in your garage. Leaving a ladder attached to a fence gives the criminal one more tool to use to break into your home on upper levels. In the same vein, don’t leave crates, chairs, tables etc. right next to the house as these can also be used to climb up to higher windows.
  • If you are going out, leave a radio or the t.v. on. Hearing noise in the house will often dissuade someone from trying to break in. Their goal is to break in, steal property and get out without getting caught.
  • If you are going out of town, have your mail and paper delivery discontinued while you are away. Mail piling up is a telltale sign that the owner is away. An alternative is to have a neighbour pick up papers and mail while you are away.
  • Let the neighbours on either side of your home and across from you know if you're going to be away or if anyone will be coming by your house. But in casual conversation, don’t tell other people that you don’t know that well that you are going to be away.
  • If you will be attending an event such as a family wedding or funeral that has been advertised in the newspaper, see if a friend can house sit for you during the event.
  • If you have a security system or surveillance camera, make sure they are working properly and use them. I have attended banks after bank robberies before and when I asked for the surveillance tape, was informed that the camera was broken and wasn’t working.
  • Get any broken window latches or faulty locks on doors fixed, don’t put this off. And above all, don’t tell anybody about them. I recall a friend who commented to an appliance repairman that a window in her basement had a latch that didn’t work on it. This window was a small, discreet window, hard to see from the street. A week later, her home was broken into and the point of entry was this very window. She learned later that the repairman who had been in her home had subsequently been let go from his place of employment. Was he the person that had broken into her home or was it mere coincidence that she had told someone about this window and then a week later was broken into? We’ll never know, but it is food for thought.
  • You can always put a beware of dog sign on your gate. Criminals will choose a house without a dog over a house with a dog.
  • When criminals break into a home, they are usually looking for money, electronics such as computers, TVs, stereos, CDs and jewellery. They almost always will head to the bedrooms and take the drawers right out of the dressers and dump them upside down looking for things. Don’t leave money and jewellery out in the open and don’t leave them in obvious places such as dresser drawers. Once stolen, this property usually winds up in a pawn shop somewhere. There are antifencing units in the police departments that work hard to retrieve people’s stolen property for them but in order to do this, people have to be able to positively identify their own possessions. For this reason, people should keep a list of the make, model and serial numbers of their various electronics. They can also put an identifying mark somewhere on the item which they will be able to locate if found. CDs can be marked with a person’s name or initials with a permanent marker without damaging the actual CD. People can take photos of their jewellery, noting any inscriptions or identifying marks to go along with these. These photos and lists can then be kept in a safety deposit box in case a person ever has to reference them. By law, pawn shops are NOT allowed to take stolen property and if by chance they do, and the police have the above information, the police can go in and retrieve the property.
  • If a person comes home and discovers that they have been broken into, they should immediately call the police. If there is any doubt whether or not the criminal is still in the home, the home owner should not enter the premises as the intruder could become very dangerous if confronted. If it is evident the intruder is long gone, it is important that the home owner does not start going through their things and putting things back in order as they could be destroying evidence such as fingerprints left by the intruder. The home owner can instead start making a list of obvious things that have been stolen.
  • When police arrive, the home owner will be given a case number to use for insurance purposes and to reference their particular case when they call in to the police for followup information.
  • If a home owner lives in a condo, he or she needs to make sure when they move in, that they know what the insurance policy for their condominium covers. Usually, each unit owner has to acquire additional insurance to cover their personal possessions in their unit.

Criminals are creatures of opportunity. Don’t make it easy for them to get into your home. Following a few safe guards can help. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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