Keep your home safe

Preventing break-ins starts with making your home a less inviting target

By Allan Britnell

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A Tight Ship

Burglars are people too, and given the choice between walking through the front door and having to scale the walls to clamber in a second-storey window, they’ll take the door. Since it’s the most common entry point for burglars, you should spend some time shoring up its defences. The door itself should be solid wood or steel-clad, and be equipped with a quality deadbolt lock. The bolt should pass through a metal strike plate on the frame that’s secured with screws three inches or longer, driven right into the wall stud. Windows in or beside the door should be coated with shatterproof glazing. Finally, if a stranger comes knocking, be aware that a sliding chain lock is easy to force open. For extra safety, a peephole with a 180-degree angle of view is a security feature you can add to a door in a matter of minutes. (For step-by-step details on how to secure entrance doors, see “Show Thieves the Door”.)

The patio door is another tempting target. Many new doors come with swing bars or step-engaged bolts that prevent the door from sliding open if the lock is jimmied. If you don’t have one of these, the tried-and-true method of laying a length of hockey stick or broom handle in the track does the same job. Some doors can be lifted straight up and out of their tracks. If there seems to be a lot of upward play on your door, adjust (or add) metal brackets to the top of the door frame that restrict this movement.

Rather than learning a lesson the hard way, make a habit of locking all your windows before you step out, particularly on the basement and ground-floor levels, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. In high-crime areas, you may want to add security bars to lower-level windows. (Note that for fire safety, security bars must have a quick-release mechanism that opens from the inside.)

Holiday Plans

Everyone knows to cancel the paper before going on vacation, and to ask someone to collect the mail and flyers that accumulate. But to ensure that your house has that lived-in look while you’re away, you should also ask a friend or neighbour to mow the lawn, rake the leaves or shovel the snow, as the season warrants. Moving a car around on the driveway can also help. You shouldn’t advertise the fact you’re about to embark on a journey. If possible, pack your car inside the garage, away from prying eyes. And whatever you do, don’t leave a message on the answering machine telling callers that you’re “away until the end of the month….”

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