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That headline could easily read BURGLARS STRIKE DURING XMAS HOLIDAYS or any day of the week really. Someone I know was the victim of a burglary today. The thing is that it could have been prevented.

The thing we need to be aware of is that Burglars are creatures of habit. They look to steal from the easiest place. You need to fortify your home to make it unappealing to burglars. Think of home security like an onion: there should be many interlocking layers, and peeling each one back should be difficult enough to make a burglar spend too much time. If it takes them too much time, they will find more vulnerable prey elsewhere.

Your property has layers and we need to look at each one closely in order to see how we can make it harder for them to get it.

The outermost layer is the local community. Is there a neighbourhood watch scheme on your road? If not then consider starting one. It’s easy these days to stay in contact with your neighbours via Whatsapp groups or Zello (a walkie-talkie app) for this purpose. Make contact with the local Police. They might have a special unit dedicated to this issue and can provide help and advice. There might be grants available in your area to start one or to buy equipment. By the way, most burglars work in the area that they live in. Your local Police will know who they are.The next layer is the outer perimeter of your property. Often this is the outside fence or wall of your garden, not just the front but the sides and back too. You need to consider a 360-degree perimeter around your property. There are two schools of thought on perimeter fences. Make them tall and impregnable or at least strong, or Make them tall, weak and see-through. I prefer the second. This seems counter-intuitive but let me explain.

  • Option one is expensive, and in any case, no perimeter wall will stop a determined burglar. It also hides the burglar from third-parties allowing them to work in relative safety.
  • Option two, on the other hand, will allow a passerby or neighbour to see them from the outside. If the fence is weak, the burglars will have difficulty climbing it without the fence bending or breaking. The idea is to make it difficult or noisy for them to do it. Consider electric fencing at the top of your fence above the reach of children and animals. Get advice from a specialist installer so your installation is within the law. Consider how plants can help the perimeter more difficult to get through. Certain species of bushes have thorns. The thieves will leave parts of themselves behind for the Police to acquire DNA. Also consider anti-climb paint on any walls, fences, gates or poles.

While on the idea of the outer perimeter, lighting is important. Specifically, motion-activated floodlights. They are not expensive and fairly cheap to run with the new LED lights. The lighting should cover the whole of the garden area and approaches to the doors and windows of the house. If your property is in a remote location without lighting on the outside of your outer perimeter fencing then consider motion-activated lighting on the outside of your perimeter and especially on the approach to your gate. The lighting will become part of your outer and inner perimeters. This is the interlocking layer that I mentioned above. There is Security lighting that also doubles as a CCTV camera and loudspeaker (google Guardcam).

Another interlocking layer is CCTV. It has a couple of weaknesses but its advantages overcome it’s disadvantages. CCTV is like the lighting. It should cover the overall area and specific areas of approach to your inner perimeter, doors and windows. One weakness is when the thieves were all wearing hoodies. This was always the main weakness of a security strategy based solely on CCTV. Of course they will only conceal their faces during the actual commission of the crime but probably not on their way into the premises. This is why I always recommend a concealed camera on the outside of your outer-perimeter. Also, install the DVR in a secure location (like a safe) that the burglars cannot get to. Make it a system that sends images to the cloud in case they do find the DVR. Make sure all the cameras come with night vision as standard.

The last interlocking layer is a guard dog. The main function of the guard dog is to make noise, not to attack the burglar!

So, we are finally at the inner perimeter. Nearly 70% of burglars enter your home through a door. Install thick, solid wood or metal doors that will be hard to kick in. If your doors have a window, install a secondary floor lock, so that after breaking the door window, a burglar cannot reach down to unlock your door and waltz into your home. Install hidden bracing in the door frame. The door locks should be mortise locks that cannot be opened without a key. The door should have hinge bolts installed too. DO NOT FORGET YOUR BACK DOOR! They are often of an inferior quality. Change them or make them stronger.

Windows are also vulnerable. Install good anti-burglar window locks. Sliding doors are especially vulnerable.

Consider a burglar alarm system. A home alarm system is one of the top ways to deter burglars from targeting your home. Several different systems and extras are available, from a basic alarm siren to a fortress. Take the maximum protection you can afford. Make sure your monitored home security company has a fast response time, and consider whether you want the police automatically notified of an alarm event.

Install a safe in case the worst should happen. Have your most precious valuables safely secured in a fireproof safe. Bolt the safe to the floor, otherwise, a strong burglar could cart it out.

Leaving the lights on constantly is like a beacon to burglars – we’re not home! Instead, install timers that will flip your lights on and off throughout the course of the night, as if you were really home.

Does your property have a garage? These are especially vulnerable to burglars. When considering the above measure, don’t leave the garage out.

Large assets like cars, vans, and machinery can also be stolen. Consider installing GPS trackers on them.

If you should need specific advice, Jorge Salgado-Reyes is available for consultations in Chile.

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