In the United States alone, a burglary occurs every 13 seconds. Many believe they have secured their house well but often make common mistakes that actually increase their risk of being burgled. Burglars have gotten smarter and will scope out your house before entering. You’re most at risk when you’re not thinking about being burgled. Stay on your toes and follow these tips to ensure your home and family are safe.

1. Leaving a spare key outside

It may be convenient for you to leave a spare key under the doormat or in the pot plant, but even the least experienced burglars will thoroughly check for this. If they do find your spare key, all other security methods will be useless. If you must have a spare key, give it to a neighbour or bury it in a memorable (but not obvious) spot.

2. Leaving valuables in plain sight

Just like when you leave valuables in your car, a person is more likely to break in if they see exactly what they can get. Move your valuables away from windows and put them away each time after use. If they are decorations, furniture or large electronics (such as TVs), invest in thick curtains or blinds to hide them from view. Don’t underestimate the more private areas of your home either. Leaving jewellery or electronics in plain sight in your bedroom won’t deter them. If they are intent on breaking in, they will scope every part of the house before doing so.

3. Making it obvious you are not home

7 out of 10 burglaries occur when no one is home. Smart burglars will watch your house and observe habits to strike when they know you are away. A common mistake is forgetting to turn lights on or only leaving one light on when you’re away for an extended period of time. Consider setting lights with a digital timer to alternate the light settings or asking a trusted person to house sit. However, always ensure external security lights are on at all times. This makes it easier for witnesses to see the burglar and can be a deterrent.

4. Removing security screens to clean and not putting it back on

Security mesh can be a pain especially when you want to clean. If you’re able to remove the mesh it may be a sign that a burglar can easily do that too. If you’re unable to put it back on, it makes it way easier to break windows and doors. Consider alternatives such as moveable screens where the mesh opens away from the window allowing you to clean then clamp it right back in place without compromising the strength or performance. They are also great for servery windows where people often neglect to secure as the mesh inhibits window movement.

5. Forgetting to set the alarm

Might seem obvious but the law of life means you’ll be hit the one time you forgot. It is also a good idea to set the alarm on external doors when you are home. 28% of burglary cases occurred when a person was home and some cases lead to a violent altercation. Reduce your risk by always setting the alarm, even if you’re gone for five minutes.

6. Hiding valuables in obvious places

The first place a burglar goes is the master bedroom. It may seem like a good idea to hide your jewellery or spare cash in your underwear drawer but in reality, it’s one of the first places they check. Invest in a safe that is installed in your house. A lockbox can be easily cut or taken with them. Also don’t make the combination your birthday (just in case your leave your spare ID lying around).

7. Not maintaining your security system

A common mistake is installing a security system and never checking on it ever again. Security systems need checking and servicing just like a car, to prevent malfunction or detect problems. Most security systems will allow you to check the alarm yourself, but it is recommended a professional services the system once a year. It may be an investment but if your system is not working, then that investment is worthless.

8. Leaving outbuildings unlocked

If a burglar is looking for a quick crime, they will target the shed or garage. Leaving these unlocked allows easy access to your things and can often be an indication of your attitude to the security of your home. A simple padlock is also not recommended as ‘real’ burglars will have a set of bolt cutters.

9. Not having visible security

No lights, no alarm sticker, no cameras? This makes you an easy and obvious target. The investment in security technology will outweigh the loss you could incur if you are burgled. Once upon a time fake security cameras and equipment was recommended as a deterrent but they have been found to be ineffective as burglars can spot the difference nowadays. Even the most basic security packages significantly reduce your risk of being burgled. Many people don’t even know how to protect a vacant property, plus burglars have gotten smarter and the only security item that shouldn’t be visible from the outside is the alarm keypad. Burglars shouldn’t be able to see if the house is armed or not. Place them where they can only be seen if you are inside the home.

10. Leaving mail to pile up

Following on from point 3, leaving your mail unattended is another obvious sign that you aren’t home. Ask a neighbour or friend to collect mail so your mailbox isn’t overflowing. It is also a good idea to prevent identity stealing or scams as your mail will likely contain sensitive and personal information. Consider temporarily cancelling your newspaper or magazine subscriptions too and asking neighbours to collect any parcels.

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