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How to Lock Out Crime: Home Security 101

This is really something to think about Bloggers when discussing home security. This is the first of four blogs about home security and how to secure your home. This information was found on the CMHC webstite (www.cmhc-schl.ca)

If you are like most Canadians, you are concerned about the safety of your home and your community. One particular type of crime that worries Canadians is breaking and entering, or burglary. Recent statistics show that burglary accounts for 22 per cent of all property crime.
Did you know? In Canada, a residential burglary takes place every three minutes.

The How To Lock Out Crime series, jointly prepared by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), will make you more aware of burglary and its dynamics and show you how to minimize the likelihood that this crime will happen to you.

The How to Lock Out Crime series promotes a proactive approach to safety and security. By knowing the conditions favourable to burglars and taking steps to eliminate those conditions, you can greatly reduce the chances that your home will be burgled. Being proactive and implementing a well-thought-out plan can:

  • significantly reduce the opportunity for a crime to be committed; and
  • minimize the consequences both personal and property damages — if a crime does occur.
Victims of home burglary typically find the experience more than just a physical loss. They find it traumatic, disturbing and intimidating. Many are unsettled for weeks afterward, and have a feeling of being personally violated. Predictably, residential burglary happens more frequently in households where crime prevention measures have not been taken. Without making your home a fortress, it is relatively easy to take effective precautions.

Tackling home security need not be overwhelming. The key is to adopt a problem-solving approach: analyze, implement and evaluate.

  • help you recognize the basic security risks that exist in and around your home — analysis.
  • provide ideas, alternatives and solutions so you can take appropriate steps to eliminate the risks — implementation.
  • aid you in assessing the improvements — evaluation.

Keep in mind that no security system is 100 per cent effective. The methods outlined here will not always discourage a professional burglar from breaking into your home. But they will, in most instances, persuade an amateur — who is by far the most frequent offender — to look for an easier target. Remember: If you have locks and alarms — use them.

Knowing Your Adversary

Over 80 per cent of home burglaries occur in daylight. These crimes are most often committed by young men between 16 and 25 years of age. Most burglaries occur on weekdays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., when residences are most likely to be unoccupied.

Amateur burglars are opportunists. They do not choose victims randomly. Rather, they look for opportunities — houses that can be approached without neighbours seeing or hearing anything; a door left ajar; or a window propped open for ventilation. Some burglars cruise a neighbourhood, working by day or night, looking for a house that seems unoccupied. If no one responds to the doorbell, they will examine the house more closely. They may test the doors and locks; note the location and type of windows; look for alarms; and so on.

The Ins and Outs of Burglary

Amateur burglary is not a sophisticated crime. To gain access to a dwelling, amateurs do not rely on deception or skill, but on concealment, speed and force. In the majority of break-ins, burglars enter the house from a door or window located in the basement or on the ground floor. However, second-floor break-ins have increased significantly in the last few years. Once inside, they steal indiscriminately, taking anything that might be valuable and can be easily carried. Burglars work quickly, often demonstrating an uncanny ability to locate hidden valuables. The average cost of goods stolen during a residential burglary is well over $3,000.

Consumer electronics — TVs, digital cameras, computers, laptops and so on — head the list of most popular stolen items. Cash, jewelry and liquor are also “hot” items.

Is Your House a Target for Burglars?

In choosing a target, a burglar will generally narrow the focus from neighbourhood, to street, to house. Deterring the criminal at any one of these stages is key to your home’s security.

Looking at the following three areas, from a burglar’s perspective, will start you thinking about what improvements are required in your community and home:

Neighbourhood

What makes your neighbourhood an attractive target for a burglar? Burglars tend to operate where they feel most comfortable, whether it be in an upper-, middle- or lower-income neighbourhood. They target houses that will provide them with a high possibility to enter and exit undetected.

Street

Once the neighbourhood has been chosen, burglars will then pick a street. What factors influence their decision? The same rationale used in selecting a neighbourhood applies when choosing a street.

Burglars will opt for streets that offer the best escape routes. Houses located near ravines or wooded areas, on corners, on busy streets or near subway stations are at higher risk. These locations provide an intruder with easy escape routes.

House

What makes your home attractive to a burglar? If a burglar is considering your neighbourhood and street, you want to make sure your house is not at the top of the list. If the choice is between your house and one down the street, access will be the deciding factor.

There are a number of visual factors that a burglar uses when targeting potential houses:

  • Are possible points of entry and exit hidden? (Can I get in and out without being seen?)
  • Is anybody home? (Clues: an unshovelled driveway, newspapers and flyers piled up at the door and overgrown grass.)
  • No visible evidence of an alarm system. (Can I remain “anonymous”?)
  • Signs of disrepair or neglect. (Clues: doors, windows and locks are of poor quality or are in need of repair, basement and main floor windows are left open or unlocked.)
  • Valuables are visible from the street. (Are the goods worth the risk?)

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