The Smart Life
3 ways to thief-proof your home

“I’ve seen a lot of break-ins,” says Inspector Chris Rheaume, who’s in charge of the downtown core district for the Ottawa Police Services. “A lot of times, these break-ins were preventable.”

The good news is that it’s not that complicated to create a line of defense that extends beyond your front door. “It’s a matter of using common sense,” he says. Here are three areas to focus on.

1. Cut curb appeal for thieves

To start, you want to make your home the least attractive house on the block — to a thief, that is. Inspector Rheaume explains how to do that:

  • Make it hard for thieves to hide. Be sure that points of entry (including basement windows) are in plain view. “A broken light on the front or back porch or tall hedges around your house make it easy for a thief to break in without anyone noticing,” he says.
  • Make it look like someone’s home, even when you’re not. “Thieves want to break in when nobody is home,” he explains. If you’re going away even for a short time, invest in timers for your internal and external lights. Also remember to have your mail picked up, snow shoveled and grass cut if you’re away for longer periods of time.
  • Keep big purchases secret. “Leaving boxes out is like Christmas shopping for thieves,” says Inspector Rheaume. If you’ve just bought a new TV or computer, for example, break down the boxes or ask if you can return them to the store.

2. Make breaking in a lot of work

“Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to stop all thieves — especially if they have time to get in — but you can make it harder for them,” he says. “And that could save you from being robbed.”

  • Get an alarm. “You want a big, loud siren to go off when someone tries to break in,” he says. Here are some tips from the Ottawa Police Service.
  • Check your exterior doors. Ensure your exterior doors have a solid core, hinges are on the inside and the gap between the door and the doorframe is sealed. Wide-angle viewers (peep holes) are also a good idea.
  • Invest in good locks. “You don’t need to buy the most expensive locks available, but they should be good-quality dead bolts,” he says. “And ensure they’re installed properly.”
  • Secure other potential points of entry. Basement and ground-level windows should all have functioning locks. Also secure pet doors and the area around window-mounted air conditioners.
  • Keep your garage or tool shed locked. Your bike, barbecue and lawn equipment can equal fast cash for thieves.

3. Keep your stuff secure

“People are surprised to hear that most break-ins are an easy in-and-out for thieves,” explains Inspector Rheaume. “Thieves are more likely to come in and walk away with one item that they can pawn for fast money. It’s actually not very common for a thief to have time to ransack a home.”

  • Don’t let a thief window shop. Use curtains and blinds to prevent a thief from seeing your personal property. And always keep credit cards, wallet and purses in a safe place and out of sight.
  • Get a safety deposit box. “Keep your expensive or irreplaceable jewellery in a safe place outside of your home,” he says. “A safety deposit box is a good idea.”
  • Mark your expensive items. “Engrave your expensive items — like your bike, TV or computer — with something identifiable,” he recommends. Keep records, along with serial numbers, in case you need to make an insurance claim.

Last, Inspector Rheaume recommends that you turn to your local police department for help. Some (like the Ottawa Police Services) offer crime prevention services that include home security inspections and tips for the community they serve. Search for your city or town police service website and take advantage of what they offer.

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