Burglary: Tips to protect your home

It’s a horrible feeling. Getting home and realising something’s amiss. “I’m sure I didn’t leave that stuff out all over the counter…” “Hang on where’s the laptop?!”

And then it dawns on you: you’ve been burgled.

Your home ransacked. Precious family keepsakes, jewellery passed down from relatives, photos – all snatched by thoughtless thieves.

Burglary by numbers

You can now see the number of burglaries committed in your neighbourhood in a new interactive map, created by the NZ Herald using data released by the New Zealand Police for the first time.

It’s sobering viewing.

Part of Auckland’s Takanini South holds the title of the most burgled residential neighbourhood in New Zealand. Residents there have to make sure they lock up the whole house just to nip to the loo – because burglars will rush in and grab stuff in seconds.

Learning the hard way…

As someone who’s been burgled twice, in two different areas, I know how angry these people must be feeling.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is not to keep precious mementos, such as cards from loved ones or newborn hospital wristbands, in jewellery boxes or anything that a burglar is likely to make a beeline for. These things are worthless to a thief but they’re not going to waste time removing them.

And print out your photos or save them in a dropbox. It may sound like an obvious one but I’m willing to bet a lot of people have snaps sitting on a laptop or phone that aren’t saved anywhere else. We lost hundreds of photos because we had left them on our laptops and SD cards that burglars proceeded to pinch.

It maddens me that I should even have to consider where I’m keeping things in my own home just in case someone decides to help themselves to my stuff but I’d rather be cautious than go through that all over again.

You can replace possessions but not your family and pets.

Our dog was home the second time we were burgled – we found him in the corner of the living room afterwards and it’s taken him a long time to get over it. I hate to think what happened to him but am so glad he was still there when we got home.

As upset as we were to lose precious family photos and jewellery, the relief that our dog was ok, did put it all in perspective. You can replace most possessions but not your family and pets.

The NZ Police offers this advice for keeping your home safe:

How to protect your home

  • Always lock up. Burglars often enter through unlocked doors and windows or they take advantage of weak locks.
  • Install good quality locks and use them. Check that you will be able to escape easily in a fire or other emergency.
  • Use a reputable locksmith.
  • Lock the front door if you’re in the back garden.
  • Lock your house if you are having a rest or doing something that needs a lot of concentration, such as studying or sewing.
  • Lock away tools and ladders because burglars could use them to break in.
  • Lock garden sheds and your garage if you can.
  • Sensor lights are an excellent security device because they light up automatically if somebody moves nearby.
  • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they don’t provide hiding places for burglars.
  • Keep windows secure.
  • Guard your keys. Don’t have personal details on your keys (such as your name, phone number or address). Don’t leave house keys with your car keys when your car is being serviced.
  • Don’t invite burglars in – never leave notes on a door stating that you are out.
  • When you go away, make sure your home looks ‘lived in’.

Home security checklists

Before you go out:

  • all doors locked
  • garage locked
  • all windows shut securely
  • tools and ladders put away securely
  • spare keys with neighbour (not ‘hidden’)
  • doors clear (no notes on them).

Before you go away:

  • tell your neighbour when and where you’re going
  • cancel mail, paper etc
  • give your neighbour a contact phone number
  • put a lamp on a timer
  • curtains open, blinds up
  • turn telephone ringer sound down
  • lock all doors, close all windows.

Ask your neighbour to:

  • clear your letterbox
  • close your curtains at night
  • use your clothesline occasionally
  • watch your home
  • use your driveway occasionally
  • report any suspicious behaviour.

Identify and mark your valuables

When claiming insurance you must be able to prove you owned any stolen items claimed for. Keep receipts, warranties, valuations and a list of serial numbers in a safe place. Take photographs or videos of jewellery, art works and other precious things. Portable items of high value are the most likely things to be stolen.

Burglars are unlikely to steal items that are permanently marked because they’re hard to sell. Engrave valuable items with your driver licence number, car registration number or phone number.

If you have engraved your valuable property or recorded the serial numbers of items, Neighbourhood Support can provide you with a warning sticker to put on a window. The sticker will discourage most criminals from taking your property because they know there is a greater risk of getting caught or traced if they handle and attempt to sell identifiable goods.

Operation SNAP

Anyone is able to record serial numbers and other unique identifying details of their valuable goods in an electronic database. For more information and to register your goods visit the Operation SNAP website.

Choosing an alarm

Alarms are only a back-up for locks, labels and lists. An alarm system can detect a burglar in action, but it can’t always keep the burglar out.

If you are considering an alarm, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a reliable company. When a security person arrives to inspect your property, ask to see their current Security Technician or Security Consultant Licence or Certificate of Approval. If they don’t have a licence, send them away. The law says they must be licensed.

Get detailed quotes and plans from several reputable alarm companies. Make sure your written contract contains a full service agreement. It must also contain normal warranties for equipment and service.

Don’t be pressured into buying something in a rush, or let a company ‘hard sell’ you an alarm system.

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