Statistics Canada reports an average of 289,200 home invasions each year. Home invasions often result in vandalism and theft, and can also expose your family to physical, mental, and emotional trauma.
However, you don't need to be overly concerned: home intruders are more likely to opt for the easiest target in any given area. Use these three strategies to decrease the likelihood that an intruder will target your home.
1. Use Your Landscaping to Your Advantage
Landscaping can beautify your home and yard, but if it isn't properly maintained or designed, it may also give an intruder places to hide. Evaluate your landscaping: can you see the windows and doors from the street? Do plants or outdoor furniture create blind spots? Could the authorities read your house number from the street in the event of an emergency?
Keep these goals in mind when designing your landscape:
- Remove Hiding Places: Anywhere an intruder could crouch unseen is a gap in your home's defence. Break down any trash that is waiting for pick up. Prune your shrubs and trees to prevent intruders from using the foliage as camouflage.
- Delay Entry: Engineer your exterior to delay and prevent illegal entry. Don't hide your extra key under the doormat or in a fake rock (those are the first places an intruder will look). Instead, give it to a trusted neighbor. Don't keep heavy objects that could break windows near the house. Plant thorny bushes or shrubs under your windows: they will make climbing into a window more difficult. As an added bonus, in the case of a break in, authorities may be able to collect clothing or DNA samples from the thorns.
2. Upgrade Your Windows and Doors
Your windows and doors can be the most vulnerable parts of your home. To increase security, replace your doors and windows with tougher models. The sturdiest doors have solid cores of hardwood or metal to make them more difficult to break. Theft-resistant patio doors have anti-lift technology that prevents burglars from removing sliding doors. The strongest windows have panes of shatter-proof glass and inside glazing.
You can also consider making these upgrades to fortify your current windows and doors:
- Window Film: Tinted window film improves your privacy and can make it more difficult for a would-be thief to case your house. Many tinted film options are also shatter-resistant. Window film can prevent break-ins without the decrease in curb appeal of window bars.
- Door Reinforcement: Fortify your entry door by adding a strike plate. A strike plate reinforces the area around your door handle and lock so that an intruder cannot kick in the door. You may also want to strengthen your hinges by adding longer hinge screws. Hinge screws should be at least 7 cm long.
- Improved Locks: If you still have the same lock that came with the house, chances are it would be easy for an intruder to pick. Secure your door with a more complex lock to prevent lock-picking and ensure that only a few trusted people have a copy of your key.
Don't rely on a chain to keep your door secure- standard chains snap when the door breaks. Instead, install a deadbolt with a throw (the bolt that goes into your doorframe) that is at least 2.5 cm long.
3. Develop a Comprehensive Security System
To improve your home's overall security, upgrade your security system. Even displaying an alarm system decal (even if it represents a fictional company) decreases the risk of an intruder targeting your home.
Consider an upgrade to at least some of these common components of complete home security systems:
- Alarms: If you live in a high-risk area or have a larger home, install an alarm system that tracks each window. If you have a smaller budget, your best choice is to install a zone alarm. Zone alarms only detect activity at your home's most vulnerable entry points (such as the garage door and back windows).
- Cameras: You may think that security cameras are only for commercial use. However, many residential security companies offer camera options. You can access the feed from your smartphone, tablet, or PC. Cameras allow you to determine the seriousness of an alarm and respond appropriately. For example, if a raccoon sets off your alarm, a camera makes it easy to identify the breach as a job for animal control, not the police.
- Automation: A home that looks lived in poses a greater challenge to a would-be intruder than one that appears deserted. Automation makes your home look "lived in," even when you are out of town. Install motion detectors for your exterior lights, remote arming options, and remote locking.
Not all home invasions are preventable, but you can decrease the chance that an intruder will target your home. Make these changes to give yourself peace of mind and keep your family and property safer.