Do you want to rest easy knowing your family is safe and your home secure? Luckily, protecting your home and belongings need not be expensive or difficult. When it comes to home security, home owners have many options to choose from. As technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do criminals. What steps should you follow, and how can you make sure your house is safe? What are the safest and riskiest neighbourhoods in Vancouver? And what do statistics say about Vancouver’s residential B&Es rates? See my infographic for more information.
House Security and Residential Break and Enter in Vancouver Infographic
I’ve divided home security tips into three major categories:
- DIY Break and Enter Prevention
- Community Safety
- Home Security System
DIY Break and Enter Prevention
It’s true that burglars are becoming smarter every second, but some security tips will always help you protect your home. Before you even look at any webpage selling home security systems, go through this checklist and the infographics below to make sure you’re not throwing your money away.
- Have you closed and locked or secured all your windows?
- Have you locked the back door, cellar door, garage door, and terrace window?
- Did you change the locks when you moved in? If not, change them ASAP!
- Does your front yard look neglected? Not only do unkempt yards suggest that your house is unoccupied, but also burglars can easily hide in bushes that are not trimmed or well maintained.
- Do you have a room with a view? Don’t let burglars see your valuables or electronics from outside. They invite burglars to search for even greater treasures inside.
- Clean up your garage. Removing unwanted boxes, old bikes, and broken kitchen appliances will create space for your car, and you won’t have to park on the driveway. It will then be more difficult for thieves to tell if you’re home or not — and your car will be safer.
- Let lights reveal the burglar. This is a cheap and effective way to scare off unwanted visitors. The light should be bright enough to light the pathway to your doorstep and back door.
- Consider getting a dog — a natural alarm system. It’s not really important whether she’s large or small, as long as she likes to bark at strangers on your property. Of course, for scaring a burglar off, the bigger, the better.
- Going to the corner store? Never leave windows open. Really, never!
Leaving on vacation soon? Make sure your home stays safe during your trip. Besides checking that you’ve completed everything on the checklist above, there are more tricks you can do to create the illusion of an occupied house.
- Don’t let mail and newspapers accumulate. Burglars are very cautious, and believing they won’t notice your two-week-old mail lying on the floor is a mistake. Ask a neighbour to pick up your mail every morning, and offer to return the favour later.
- Light up the night. If you’re going to be away from home for any length of time, use timers on lights inside the house so the place looks occupied. Make sure the timers are used in multiple rooms automatically.
- Just in case, get a safety deposit box. It’s a foolproof way to protect your valuables when you’re gone.
The Burglar by Eastlaketimes
We’re living in the digital age, but have you ever thought about it as the age of the digital criminal? Burglars take advantage of social media to access information about would-be victims. We even announce when we’re going away on holidays or when we’re not in. We basically invite criminals to our houses through public updates of our whereabouts.
Seventy-eight per cent of burglars have said that social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare are used to select properties.
Moreover, 54 per cent also said that posting their status and whereabouts on social networking sites was a common mistake made by homeowners. A further 74 per cent said that Google Street View played an important role in today’s home thefts.
Don’t use social media to report that you left your home or check-in or tweet about your location. Also avoid posting photos of expensive items in your home, and refrain from announcing that you’ll be out of town for an extended period.
The easiest way to deal with problems is to prevent them. One of the greatest ways to prevent B&Es is befriending the neighbourhood gossip. He’s the person who knows everything happening on the street. He’ll let you know if there’s been a stranger lurking around, or if someone is snooping about your house when you aren’t there.
Neighbourhoods are safer when citizens act together. Safety is a shared responsibility for which both police and citizens play important roles.
Block Watch is all about neighbours helping neighbours, preventing homes from break-and-enters. Participants watch out for each others' homes and report suspicious activities to the police and each other.
Block Watch is celebrating its 24th anniversary this year as a VPD community-based prevention program.
Patrollers use their own cars or walk in civillian clothes, making them indistinguishable from the general crowd. Volunteers observe the activity around them and call in to report any criminal or suspicious activity. Patrols pay extra attention to neighbourhoods that frequently experience vandalism, arson, or auto theft.
With each day I have been out volunteering for the CCW, I am having a better grasp of policing standards in Canada and feel more associated with this kind of work. My role might be too little in the entire effort, but eventually it gives me a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment for something positive that I am doing for our society,
said Sukhbir Dhaliwal.
The program currently includes approximately 594 participating active blocks, including 1,000 captains and co-captains monitoring the individual neighbourhood Block Watch programs. Including all of the participating households that each team has recruited, that's an additional 15,600 extra pairs of trained eyes and ears reporting suspicious activity. And you can be a part of it too! Don't sit back. Get involved by contacting your local police department to see if there's a Block Watch in your area. If your street doesn't have an active Block Watch, someone from your area has to volunteer to become the Block Captain and enlist the help of Co-Captain(s).
Watch Krenz on Krime as Constable Dave Krenz gives tips on preventing crime in your neighbourhood.
Community Safety Tips:
- Get to know each other. Residents should be familiar with routines in their neighbourhood. This doesn’t mean spying on each other — just take notice of your neighbours’ usual activities (like running in the morning, coming home for lunch on weekdays, or leaving the city for the weekend).
- Be aware of strangers. When you know people living in your neighbourhood, it’s easier to spot strange cars or unknown people wandering around.
- Leave keys and phone numbers with a trusted neighbour. Agree to check each other’s house while on vacation or outside the city. A vacant house is an easy target.
Alarms and Monitors
Installing an electronic security system is one of the most popular methods of protecting your home. One of the disadvantages of this approach is that the majority of residential entry alarms are false and therefore waste police resources and reduce the system’s integrity.
Installing an alarm system can help to detect a burglary, but it can’t prevent burglars from entering. The system is only as good as its user and should not replace good physical reinforcement, such as deadbolt locks, adequate lighting, secure basement windows, and strong exterior doors.
When looking for a home security system, choose one that can monitor all your doors and that comes with a quality motion detector. ADT is a free home security system from Apex Direct Canada that can provide your house with full coverage and monitoring.
The system comes with three permanent door contacts as a starting point. The free package comes with two motion sensors as well. Each motion sensor covers a 1,200-square-foot area, which guards against someone breaking in through your windows. There is also a monitored smoke detector as part of the package that is linked to the monitoring centre, and it’s always on. There is also a keychain remote that you can use to turn your system on and off. All of that equipment is provided at no charge, and there is no charge for the installation,
explains an ADT representative.
Motion sensors are sensitive to pets heavier than 60 pounds. So cats and small dogs can come in and leave unnoticed. As the representative told us,
The is no fine for false alarm through ADT. Each municipality has its own false alarm policy. Usually they give you two or three free of charge and then you pay for any additional.
And the costs? “The monthly rate if you use wireless devices is $33.99 per month and it’s based on 36 months monitoring with ADT.”
When someone triggers the alarm, the system will send a signal to a monitoring centre, and a monitoring station will call your home number and three other emergency contact numbers. If they can’t get hold of anybody, they will dispatch the police. You can change the numbers at any time.
One of the greatest advantages of home security systems is deductible insurance coverage. “ADP covers up to $500 if somebody breaks in while our system is on. And you save around 20 per cent from your home insurance.”
Residents can choose from two types of alarms: monitored and unmonitored.
- Monitored alarm: This alarm is linked to a police department and alerts them that someone has entered your house. Thieves can cut the phone lines before they enter and disable the alarm.
- Unmonitored alarm: This alarm will sound, but the police won’t be notified automatically. Residents need to rely on neighbours or passers-by to call the police, which may or may not be effective.
Acquiring and maintaining a home alarm and monitoring system can be pricey, and many households wonder if the investment is worth the price. Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook, which rates home security companies, explains his point of view:
I think the most important advice is to think twice before even bothering with a system. There are a lot of things you can do that would probably be more powerful than any home security system.
Burglars often take advantage of unlocked doors or windows that are easily jarred open. Krughoff says, “Most of the time they get in through very unartful means.”
If you don’t want to invest in security alarms and monitors, you can install a camera monitoring the main entrance doors.
Install a camera with motion detection that will automatically begin recording at 30 frames per second in the event it is triggered, while simultaneously sending an email alert to the homeowner with a JPEG attached,
says Sergio Collazo, sales director at Toshiba America Information Systems in Irvine, California.
Motion detection works by the camera sensing video pixel movement. This will trigger the recording, thus saving storage space and the time it would take to search or playback the video,
Collazo says. “Once motion is no longer detected for a programmable amount of time, let’s say say 30 seconds, the recording stops.”
No security alarm or monitor can prevent breaking and entering. This is very important to keep in mind. Certain neighbourhoods are safer than others, and for those who don’t want to rely solely on their neighbours’ vigilance, an alarm and monitor system is a great idea as an addition to target hardening.
Target Hardening is a term used by police officers and security experts that refers to securing your home. As mentioned before, alarms won’t protect your home; they simply report the problem. By following the steps below, you can check whether you’ve done everything you can to secure your house properly.
Always lock the doors — the front doors, back doors, garage doors — if you see a door, lock it! Meanwhile, check your doors’ quality. Outside doors and frames should be made of solid wood or steel. These doors are harder to force open than hollow-core doors. Frames in outside doors should fit snugly (within 6 millimetres) against the door, and any glass around an outside door should lie at least 40 inches from the lock or be unbreakable. For extra security, you can also consider having a floor-mounted doorstop installed. A doorstop is much more effective than a door chain.
Hinges should be part of the door. They should go through the doorframe into the supporting stud and should not be visible from the outside. Your door should definitely also include a wide-angle viewer.
Don’t forget to change the locks when your keys are lost or when you move into a new residence.
Garages are a burglar’s favourite place because they promise easy targets such as power tools and bicycles.
- Secure garage windows with bars or plexiglass.
- The door between your house and attached garage should swing inward, have a solid core, and include a deadbolt lock.
- Keep your garage locked — even when you’re at home.
- If the overhead garage door is roller-and-track–operated, install a lock in the track to block the roller, and disconnect your automatic garage door opener before you go on vacation.
Deadbolts are the most secure door locks at the moment. If your house has security locks with key holes in the knob, change them; they are unreliable. The bolt can’t be slipped with a card or tool but can only be disengaged with a key.
Another type of bolt that can be used is the bolt rim lock, which has two vertically moving deadbolts that lock into a frame-mounted striker above and below the door. These locks are suitable for wooden frames or where there are windows on the sides of the door preventing proper installation of a deadbolt.
For additional security, have a steel reinforcement device installed to both the door and the frame. This increases strength greatly, and it’s easy to install and cost-effective.
Windows are generally a weak link, as they can be easily opened, broken, or lifted. To secure your windows, all you have to do is to have a proper look and take a quick survey. Consider the following questions:
- How can I access the window from the outside? Is there a tree, fire escape, or porch nearby? Is the window easily accessible from the ground or roof?
- Is the glass shatter-resistant?
- Are the locking mechanisms functional, and are they engaged?
- Is the surrounding area well lit at night?
Casement windows can be closed with a door-bolt–like device that operates with a key. Screw the lock to the window and slide the bolt into a metal cup that mounts in the sill. Drive a screw into the top of the upper track to keep thieves from lifting a gliding window out of its track. To keep the window from sliding, drive a screw horizontally through the track. A key track stop is a locking stop that you can attach anywhere on the track. You can position it to lock the window shut, or so that the window opens only a limited amount, providing ventilation and safety. A keyed turnbuckle replaces the normal latch, so you’ll need a key to open the window. A child-safety latch also replaces the original latch. It’s similar to the childproof caps on medicine but easier to use. To open the window, you have to be able to squeeze a lever while turning the latch.
On double-hung windows, you can install a locking pin that goes through one sash and into the next to keep intruders from lifting the sash. Some pins screw through a hole you drill, while others drive in and out with a special key included with them.
The Safest and Riskiest Neighbourhoods in Vancouver
According to statistics, there were 5,339 B&Es (households) in Vancouver in 2012.
District 1 — 192 break-and-enters
District 1 comprises the West End, Yaletown, Coal Harbour, and the Central Business District of Vancouver. The residential population of District 1 is over 80,000 people, mostly in high-rise apartments.
District 2 — 415 break-and-enters
District 2 comprises Strathcona, Grandview-Woodlands, and Hastings-Sunrise. The residential population of District 1 is approximately 75,000 people.
District 3 — 830 break-and-enters
District 3 comprises Sunset, Renfrew-Collingwood, Mount Pleasant, Killarney, Victoria-Fraserview, and Kensington–Cedar Cottage.
The residential population of District 3 is approximately 175,000 people.
District 4 – 1,234 break-and-enters
District 4 is the largest of the patrol districts, encompassing West Point Grey, Kitsilano, Fairview, Dunbar-Southlands, Arbutus Ridge, Shaughnessy, South Cambie, Riley Park, Musqueam, Kerrisdale, Oakridge, and Marpole. The residential population of District 4 is approximately 221,000 people.
City (offences coded as “location unknown”) – 2,670 break-and-enters