Heading Away for March Break – Keep your home safe!


NNLCRIMEbeatTHUNDER BAY – Crimebeat – If you are headed south for March Break, in all the excitement it is also important to keep in mind to make sure your home is secure. Otherwise your holiday might come to a less than desired conclusion when you get home. In Thunder Bay, property crime is one of the leading instances of crime in the community.

The Chatham-Kent Police Service offer the following tips to help keep your home safer while you are away.

If you’re planning to take some time away from home over the March Break beware of criminals that are gearing up for their busy season. Empty houses full of jewellery and electronics present thieves with tempting opportunities. How can you make your home and property less attractive to criminals?

Here are some tips to help prevent a break-in while you’re away during March Break.

1. Access denied – Residential break-ins are crimes of opportunity. If you don’t provide an easy way in, often criminals will look elsewhere. Doors and windows are entry points for criminals, so make sure they’re in good shape with sturdy, strong frames that can’t be broken. Use a bar or cut off an old hockey stick to block a sliding door or window, which will make this entry point more difficult for the thief. Ensure locks are in good working order and use deadbolts that are at least one inch in size. Don’t forget your garage door – make sure the door inside the garage gets the same treatment as other entrances to your home.

2. Make some noise – A home alarm security system can be a great deterrent and may earn you a reduction on your home insurance policy. Loud alarms result in unwanted attention for criminals. Consider buying a do-it-yourself installation alarm, which sounds when a window or door is opened and motion sensor alarms that sound if movement is
detected inside.

3. Make a few cutbacks – Once your home interior has been secured, consider outside factors such as landscaping. Large bushes and shrubs close to the house can be hiding places and may conceal illegal activities. Be sure your hedges and shrubs are trimmed before you leave as over-growth is a sign no one is there to tend to them.

4. Lighten up – Criminals prefer that your neighbours don’t see what they’re up to. Make sure your property has sufficient lighting, both close to your home and the perimeter of your property. You can keep energy costs down with motion censored or timed lighting that is sure to give a potential thief a nasty surprise.

5. Unplug – You turned off your appliances and maybe unplugged them too, but what about your internet and computer? In today’s electronic age criminals may not need to get into your house in order to gather personal information that can be used to steal your identity. Unplug any LAN cables and unplug your wireless router or modem to ensure your personal information is not stolen using wireless connections.

6. Play hide and (don’t) seek – If people can see expensive electronics and equipment through the window, you may be showing criminals what valuables are available for them to take. The best thing to do is keep them out of sight to avoid enticing criminals into your home. Lock valuables, documents and jewellery away in a safe or consider removing these items from your home to a safety deposit box or a trusted friend’s home while you’re away.

7. Go for the lived-in look – Make it look like someone is still living in your home, even if you don’t have a house sitter. We’ve all heard the trick about putting lights on timers, but you can take this tactic even further by doing the same thing with your stereo and TV too. Generate some noise and light to keep people guessing. Have lights come on at different times in different places in your home and let a talk radio station provide some conversation.

One exception to the noise rule: Turn down the ringer on your phone so outsiders won’t hear that it’s not being answered.

8. Enlist help – There’s no substitute for some extra help, and it’s not only about keeping the plants watered. A trusted neighbour, friend or family member can keep an eye on your home for anything suspicious. Here are some things they can do to help. Have them collect your newspapers, mail and flyers that might pile up and shovel snow from your driveway and walkways so it’s not obvious you’re not home.

Consider asking them to put a bag of garbage on your lawn on garbage day and set out some recycling to give your home that lived-in look. If your go-to neighbour is expecting guests, offer your driveway as alternative parking if you’re on a road trip. Ask them to watch for signs of break-in and make sure to leave an emergency number where you can be reached just in case.

9. Be anonymous – Do not display your name on your mailbox, door or a decoration in your yard. This personal touch can lead resourceful criminals right to you. Regardless of whether you’re home or not, the safest answering machine message is a generic one that simply says you can’t come to the phone.

Don’t give your name on the message and never say you’re away from home or when you’ll be returning.

10. Keep your plans to yourself – Naturally, you want to share your travels with friends and family. Social networking sites like Facebook, MSN, blogging and Twitter make it easy to keep everyone up-to-date and envious.

However, you don’t always know who is watching and any information you reveal can be paired with other data that’s easily accessible online, like your address and telephone number. Counting down the days until your vacation, posting about your activities while you’re away and sharing photos may seem like harmless activities, but they could put you at risk.

Avoid discussing your plans in public places or at the office where anyone can overhear. Only tell people you trust that you’re going away. You may be excited about your trip, but it’s safer to tell people about it after you’ve returned.

The Chatham Kent Police Service offers a modern and engaging website filled with crime-prevention tips. This community, about the same size as Thunder Bay is one of Canada’s leading smaller cities when it comes to public engagement online. For more information visit the site online at www.ckpolice.com.

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