5 steps to stop a burglary (before it starts)

5 steps to stop a burglary (before it starts)

Use these low or no-cost tips to deter a thief


We live in a world where shootings, fatalities and crime seems to dominate news headlines. So, would it shock you to learn that a residential burglary occurs once every 90 seconds in Canada? (Keep in mind, this number also takes into consideration thefts from garages, sheds and other private property that is not actually owner-occupied.)

While residential break-ins continue to decline—with a 45% reduction since 1998—it comes as no surprise that homeowners want to eliminate every opportunity of making their house the thief’s next target.

The good news is that numerous studies show that burglary is predominately a crime of opportunity. By spending some time and a bit of money—and following these five steps—you can help cross your address off a criminal’s list.

#1. Pay attention to the mail

Going away for the week? Your mailman doesn’t know that. And even if he did, isn’t there some slogan about not snow or sleet getting in the way (I know, I know, that’s the U.S. Postal Service, but you get my point).

Nothing alerts a would-be thief to an empty home than a mailbox full of letters. So, plan for an empty mailbox either by asking a friend, family member or neighbour to pick up your mail or by paying to temporarily halt your mail delivery. It costs $20 for 14 days of no delivery (and an additional $10 for each week thereafter) and you can easily set it up through Canadapost.ca.

#2. Hide your stuff strategically

Don’t have a safe. Don’t worry. Have a safe? Worry. That’s because most crimes of opportunity are also crimes done in haste, which means the thief wants to get in and out quickly. They’ll look for easy to steal items and easy to find valuables. But by thinking a bit strategically you could prevent a major loss. Jewelry in the freezer no longer works—because the tip has been publicized all too often—but it’s out of the way places like that where you want to keep valuable, hard-to-replace items you don’t want found.

#3. Display your alarm – hide your keypad

You want would-be thieves to be scared off before they even enter your home, so hiding your alarm keypad sounds a bit counterintuitive. But it isn’t. That’s because alarm systems are actually quite poor at catching burglars. According to Simon Hakim, an economics professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, home security systems almost never catch thieves. After analyzing the data, Hakim found the average police response time to a triggered home alarm is between one and four hours—plenty of time for perpetrators to flee. So the key to using an alarm as a deterrent is to advertise that you have one, but don’t give away the code. To do this you should consider attaching alarm company stickers to your windows and doors and displaying lawn signs with the alarm company you use. But to prevent would-be criminals from seeing the code you punch in, make sure the keypad is hidden or at least not in direct view of the front door.

#4. Plant a deterrent

Want to keep thieves away from windows? Plant thorny shrubs, such a rosebushes, beneath ground-floor windows. Not only will this pretty up your garden but crime-of-opportunity thieves will think twice about wading through sharp-thorny branches for a possible access point.

#5. Get out the pruner

While thorny bushes may be excellent deterrents, overgrown bushes almost invite burglars. Overgrown hedges and bushes provide hidden spots that burglars can hide in while scoping out your house. To eliminate these up-close vantage points, prune back your shrubbery and consider installing a few outdoor lights that either stay on all night, or turn on when motion is detected.

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