Northern Ireland has been hitting the headlines for all the right reasons lately (thanks Lonely Planet!) so news that crime, including burglary, has been on a steady downward trajectory for the past 14 years can only add to the positive vibe. Despite this, however, burglars are always on the lookout for an opportunity, so we need to remain on guard. We have come up with some common-sense tips to help protect your home from intruders.
- Place a dog bowl by the door (even if you don’t own a dog). Burglars are wary of dogs; they’re not keen on being bitten or leaving DNA evidence at the scene. Even a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign can be off-putting. Who’s to know the dog in question is a stuffed toy.
- Install surveillance cameras. Surveillance cameras in clear view are helpful, if expensive. When burglars approach a house, they tend not to cover their faces to avoid looking suspicious. Once they discover that they’ve been caught on camera, chances are they will beat a hasty retreat.
- Have an alarm system. Home alarm systems are helpful when used correctly. However, most people don’t set them, and burglars know this, so their value as a deterrent is limited. Put a doorstopper alarm at your front and rear doors.
- Make sure everything is working. Check that doors are secure, and ensure that locks are installed properly and in use. Standard window locks are not the most secure, especially when they are not in the locked position. Do a thorough security check and make sure that everything is working as intended.
- Create an illusion. Set your indoor and outdoor lights on a timer, so that they come on at regular intervals, giving the impression that the house is occupied. You can also set the television and radio on a timer to create the typical sounds and flickering lights of an average family home at night. Leave your car in the drive, if possible, and make sure the post doesn’t pile up. Arrange to have someone mow the lawn, and if you normally have random items strewn around in the garden, leave them there. Anything that shows signs of life will keep prowlers at bay.
- Make sure shrubs are trimmed. Intruders don’t want to be caught obviously, so they’re always on the lookout for homes that provide cover. Cut back shrubbery that obstructs the view to your front, side, or back doors. While fences and tall hedges enhance privacy, they can also be a burglar’s friend.
- Unattended packages invite burglars in. If you’re at work all day, consider sending your packages to a neighbour who is at home. You can also have packages shipped to the post office – or have items sent to the nearest bricks-and-mortar location and pick them up in the evening.
- Set up alerts that go directly to your phone. Installing a security system used to be prohibitively expensive, but DIY kits that work with your home’s Wi-Fi are now readily available. Some will provide monitoring services, while others notify your smartphone when an intrusion is detected. Google the options available to find a system that suits your needs and budget.
- Don’t announce holiday plans. No doubt you’re excited about your holiday plans but keep them to yourself for now. Giving a blow-by-blow account of your travels on social media is not a good idea. It sends out an alert that your home is most likely vacant, which can lead to a break-in or a visit from squatters. Knock yourself out uploading exotic shots on Facebook once you’re safely home.
- Sharing photos of your belongings. Have you recently remodelled your kitchen or become engaged? Many people enjoy sharing such events on social media, but these photos can reveal more than might be wise. They show the contents of your home, and display items worth stealing, such as TVs and computers, a diamond ring, gifts under a tree, or expensive artwork. Think before you share.
- Check-ins. You’re somewhere cool and can’t wait to share it with your followers, so you ‘check-in’. Businesses often encourage customers to do this and may even offer a reward for sharing location. However, check-ins tell the world that you’re not at home, and if you tag your friends, you’re putting them at risk too.
- The spare key hidey-hole. You arrive home and realise you’ve forgotten your key. ‘Luckily, I remembered to leave a spare under the mat,’ you think. Flowerpots, loose bricks and mats are favourite hiding spots for spare keys - and burglars know this. Never leave your keys in these places; they’ll be the first places a burglar will look.
- Don’t showboat. If you’ve recently purchased an expensive item, do not leave the packaging beside the bin.
- Trick burglars. If they’re unsure whether someone is home or not, burglars won’t break in. Surprisingly, a large number of break-ins occur during the day when people are at work or at school. When you’re out of the house, make it look as if you’re at home. Leave a light on, have a playlist on repeat throughout the day, or leave the television on.
Your home is your haven. By taking these small steps to thwart burglars, you’ll keep it that way.