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Do-it-yourself home security

A residential break-and-enter happens every three minutes in Canada. It takes only 90 seconds for a thief to get in and out of your home, and most thefts don't happen under the cover of darkness -- they take place between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. While it's almost impossible to make your home burglar-proof, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk and protect yourself and your valuables.

"People should be taking precautions ahead of time because one of the worst things for a lot of people is to have someone break into their house," says Const. Rob Black, with the Crime Prevention Unit of the London Police Service. "It's not just the theft of property because usually that can be replaced. They feel very violated."

The good news is that according to Statistics Canada, break-and-enters are on the wane. In 2005, almost 260,000 incidents were reported to police (more than half were residences), representing a 7 percent decline from 2004 and a 40 percent decline from 1995. But look at the police blotter of any local newspaper and you'll see a number of families who believed, "it won't happen to me."

"We see far more often crimes of opportunity by small-time thieves who are taking advantage of lax security. They're hitting soft targets," says Const. Mike O'Reilly, community officer with the Ottawa Police Service. 

Securing your home
Exterior entrances are often the first places a burglar will check for vulnerabilities such as thin pine doors, weak door frames, improperly aligned strike plates, short hinge screws or flimsy locks. "One of the most important deficiencies we see is the quality of lock on the door," says O'Reilly. "A proper deadbolt lock is really the only way to go."

The first line of defense is locking all doors and windows, but beyond that, here are a few additional precautions you can take:

  • Cut back shrubs and trees that can hide intruders.
  • Equip the lower track of sliding doors with a piece of wood or metal and secure the stationary pane with a door pin.
  • Secure basement windows with interior bars or block glass.
  • Affix double-hung or sliding windows with auxiliary locks or pins.
  • Ensure deadbolt locks measure at least one inch when fully extended; three-inch screws should anchor the lock in the doorframe.
  • Replace glass in or near exterior doors with a shatter-resistant material.
  • Keep tools and ladders locked away.
  • Have adequate exterior lighting, including motion sensors.
  • Keep blinds drawn and valuables out of sight.
  • Re-key or replace locks in a new home.
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