Stay safe: don't give burglars a break

There are simple ways to make sure your home is safe

By VENA EATON, Toronto Sun


The lights are on but nobody's home. And that's a good thing, if you're a homeowner.

Keeping your casa secure from burglars, however, takes a bit of forethought and planning, particularly during the holiday season.

One way to trick sneaky thieves into thinking someone is home is with lighting.

"Burglars hate lights," says security expert and locksmith Frank Fourchalk.

The provincially-licensed consultant suggests putting indoor lights on a timer, installing outdoor lights at the entranceway and placing motion sensor lights around the perimeter of the home.

"Motion lighting should be installed out of arms reach," he adds. "And if you can't do that, then install a protective cage around the fixture to slow the removal of the bulb."

It's all about deterring the robbers and not giving them any breaks. They're desperate people and it's up to the homeowner to give them a hard time.

"About half of home burglaries are committed without force," says Fourchalk. "A burglar will spot an open door or window in a matter of minutes -- they're opportunists. They take advantage of the moment."

Beth Butler didn't think twice about leaving her door open until she was robbed.

"Home security was not a concern until our house was broken into," says Butler from Midland, Ont. "We thought 'this will never happen to us,' and it did."

Burglars don't usually spend more than 60 seconds trying to break into a home, adds Fourchalk, and says good quality deadbolts are the homeowners' first line of defence.

"Deadbolts should have at least a one-inch throw and the cavity has to be deep enough for the bolt not to make any contact," he says. "The bolt should be surrounded by space and air and the strike plate should have three-inch screws going into the doorframe."

Lock door

Install a good deadbolt

Another way to beef up security is by installing a "door reinforcer," which is a decorative metal plate that wraps around the door.

"The u-shaped sleeve fits around the front, side and back of the door and is one of the best security items you can buy. As soon as you drill a hole for the deadbolt, you've immediately compromised the strength of the door -- the sleeve just reinforces it," adds Fourchalk.

Now Butler and her husband always lock their door. They place pieces of wood in the tracks of their sliding basement windows and are considering a home security system.

But if the price of a home security system is a concern, then Fourchalk recommends "illusion security."

"Buy a big pair of boots -- a size 12 or 13 should do it -- and leave them on the front stoop. Dump the boots in muck so they don't look brand new. You can also place a large dog dish and dog leash outside the door to create the illusion that a big person and a big dog live there," he suggests.

These tactics are similar to using devices to turn the lights and radio on and off when no one is home.

"Make the home look occupied at all times," advises Fourchalk. "Use timers that randomly turn the lights and radio on and off throughout the day and tune the station to talk radio rather than music. Leave the curtains open about an inch so that it gives the impression that someone is inside, particularly if you have timers on lights and radios."

Doing all this may not prevent a break-in, but it beats leaving the key under the doormat.