We’re supposed to be safe at home. Right?
Time and again, we hear judges speaking of householders’ sense of violation when they find they have been burgled.
The law effectively provides harsher penalties when private homes are the targets of thieves. Where a home is involved, it becomes an aggravating feature for judges imposing sentences.
Where a householder is at home, and encounters the intruder, even harsher penalties will be invoked because the break-in will become a home invasion.
Homes are regarded as places where we are entitled to feel we are safe, but even so, 30,000 burglaries are reported to the police each year.
Obviously, it’s hard to guarantee security, but there is a range of sensible measures that householders can take to make themselves less of a target.
These can range from simple arrangements to cope with mail, get lawns mowed and gardens tended while the owners are away, through to monitored alarm and security systems.
Some steps you can take:
If you are going to be out in the evening, leave a light on but not in an area where prowlers can look in and see that no-one is home.
Don’t have your name on your letterbox. If the house looks unattended, a burglar with a cellphone and a phonebook will be able to park outside and phone to see if you are home.
Make friends with your neighbours, and join a Neighbourhood Support Group if there is one. Cover for each other by checking houses and taking in mail while someone is away.
Women living alone may like to leave a man’s shoes outside the back door.
Don’t leave windows ajar for pets to come and go. If this has to be done, have a security lock that prevents the window being opened wide enough to let a burglar through.
Don’t leave a message on your answerphone that you are out for the night, or away on holiday. Such information will be far too valuable for a thief who may be calling around to see who’s home.
If people come to your door seeking help, keep them at the door rather than letting them in. If you feel they really need to come in, keep a close watch on where they go and what they do. They may be asking for a glass of water but targeting wallets, handbags, or any valuable items.
If you are out the back in the garden, make sure that the front entrance of your house is secure.
Take extra care if there is another easy way onto your property, such as from a stream boundary. It may provide ready access for burglars.
Deadlocks on external doors and locks on windows will make intruders think again. The sound of a window breaking may attract attention, and they also won’t want to risk cuts from the broken glass if they try to climb through. Deadlocks will prevent burglars opening doors from the inside and carrying property away.
Night lighting that is set off by movement is a simple security measure to install, to deter those people who value darkness more than everybody else.
Louvre windows can be a weak point. The panes of glass need to be secured in place or they can be quietly slid out to gain access.
Intruders find locked internal doors a great nuisance.
Don’t leave tools or ladders lying around, or stored outside. That may involve keeping your garden shed locked. Why give the burglars the tools they need to do the job?
Trim trees or shrubs that create secluded areas that might help a prowler to stay out of sight.
When people come to the front door, make sure they are visible from inside either through a window or a viewing hole. Don’t open the door unless you’re satisfied you’re safe.
Be wary of people offering trade services door to door. Their quotes may look cheap, but their work may match the quotes. Or they may simply be wanting to get into your house.
If your phone has a speed dial arrangement, set it up to call a neighbour with the touch of a button.
If you need help immediately, and can’t get to the phone, throw something out through a window. The sound of breaking glass is a very good way of attracting neighbourhood attention straight away.
When going away on holiday:
- Tell your trusted neighbour you’re away and give them a contact number.
- Arrange to have your mail held, or have someone collect it.
- Cancel the newspaper, arrange to get the lawns mowed.
- Have a light on a timer so that it will look as though someone is home in the evenings.
- Perhaps the neighbour would be happy to leave their car parked in your driveway, or put out their washing on your line.
- You could lend them a key so that they could open and close curtains sometimes.
- Keep a record of your valuables by taking photographs, or engraving or invisibly marking them with serial numbers. Keep the record of those numbers secure.
The next step up from there is to have the professionals in and install an alarm system. These can be detectors that activate alarms, or telephone security staff.
You should ask to see the licence of anyone installing or checking burglar alarms. They should be able to show you a Security Guard’s Licence issued under the Security Guards Act 1974 by the Department for Courts.
If someone is in your house, don’t endanger yourself by confronting them. They will probably be hyped up, nervous, or high on drugs. Concentrate on getting you and your family out, and raise the alarm.
Don’t hesitate to call 111 if you see suspicious activity. Note the registration numbers of suspect cars, or descriptions of the people you see.
And if you come home and do find you’ve been burgled, call the police. Don’t start cleaning up straight away because you may destroy valuable evidence, particularly fingerprints.
Sadly, if you have been burgled, it’s probably time for additional security. Firstly, it will make you feel better, but also burglars who have taken valuable appliances will sometimes “diary” the victims for a second visit a few weeks later when they know the insurance will have paid out and nice, new appliances should have arrived.
Burglars at work
An 18-year-old woman’s first foray into crime provided an insight into one of the ways burglars go about their business.
She came up before Judge Gary MacAskill in the Christchurch District Court on January 14, and was remanded on bail for sentencing on March 3.
The reports the judge called for indicate she is likely to get supervision or community work.
The woman and her associates were in a bar along The Strip when one of them stole a handbag while a woman was on the dancefloor.
They took it to the toilets where they took the cash and car keys and threw the bag into a rubbish bin.
They then took the car keys outside, pressed the button on the remote control, and a parked car obligingly beeped and flashed its lights at them. Easy as that.
They got in the car, found some papers with a home address on them, and a house key.
So they went there, used the key, and got in through the garage to the house where they took goods including a computer and jewellery.
The householders returned, disturbed the burglars and one of them caught the woman while the associates ran off.
She admitted her role in the burglary, but said she didn’t do the handbag theft that began the chain of events.