Even with my police background, I sometimes wonder if it’s truly possible to avoid a home burglary, or if it’s only a matter of good or bad luck. One thing for sure is that there is never a lack of victims filing reports. In 2014, 378,776 burglaries were reported in France alone. And these burglars know no limits.
When I entered police school, I was surprised to learn that burglars will often even steal your blankets in order to protect your TV during the post-theft transportation! Another surprising (and sad) find was that many victims are so traumatized by having their privacy violated that they often end up moving within one year following the burglary.
Luckily, security experts know a few secrets that can help limit your risk of burglaries, starting with carefully choosing or examining your lodgings.
Apartment shopping: what to look for?
First of all, whenever you are house hunting, you can look at each potential place in the eyes of a burglar, using our pro tips:
- Lighting: The facade and entrance of the building must be well-illuminated at night
- Entrance: The building should have a strong, locked exterior door and a locked inside door to the staircase or elevator. Even better is a communal entrance monitored by a receptionist or concierge.
- Floor choice: Avoid apartments on the ground or first floors (easy access for the burglars!)
- Door: The best apartment doors are made from solid wood or metal, with a 3-point deadbolt lock and anti-pry metal plates (plates that are bolted to the door and cover the gap between the door and door frame).
- Balcony: If there is a balcony, it should not be accessible from the neighboring apartments, or by climbing the drain pipes, etc.
- Windows: All windows should be equipped with roll-down or hinged shutters.
What can I do to protect my current lodging?
If you aren’t currently in the housing market, you can still protect your home by investing in one or more of these anti-burglary gadgets:
- Cameras: Security cameras, real or fake, depending on your budget
- Anti-pry strips: They prevent criminals from prying the door away from its frame.
- Alarm: Real or fake, again depending on your budget (fake alarm keypad, fake stickers…)
- Anti-climbing devices: Some apartments are very easily accessible by climbing gutters and balconies. Metal spikes that are often used to deter birds can also deter thieves!
- Window protections: Roll-down shutters and shatter-resistant window films can also be useful because windows are usually the easiest point of entry into a home.
Police Tips for Preventing Burglaries
- Use a radio to fool potential burglars into thinking someone is home!
The French Police reminds us that burglars often take advantage of our mistakes, like leaving a door unlocked or a window open, or hiding our keys under the carpet, the planter, or leaving them in the mailbox (burglars will find it!) Another very good piece of advice is to turn on your light, radio or TV on when you leave your home, in order to fool a potential burglar into thinking someone is home.
- Use light to make burglars feel more vulnerable!
Scotland Yard insists on having a strong door (reinforced with metal strips), a well-illuminated home (makes burglars feel more vulnerable and at risk of being seen) and an alarm with flashing lights!
How can I protect my precious valuables?
- Computer: I have met many victims who have lost all their personal data and pictures because of a burglary. I can tell you this is devastating. My advice is to have an automated virtual backup (ex: Dropbox, Google Drive, etc).
- Wine Collection? One last piece of advice: if your home also comes equipped with a French cave, don’t fall into the trap of so many unfortunate victims and store your most prized possessions in an unprotected basement. Storage closet/locker thefts are some of the easiest targets for thieves because of their underground location and often shoddy construction. So if you’ve spent the past 10 years building up a serious wine collection, don’t forget to take safety into consideration along with the humidity and temperature of the room!
- Cash, Jewelry and IDs: A safe, securely anchored to a solid surface and, ideally, concealed, is the best way to protect your valuables and sentimental items.
More reading on how to protect your home: