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How to keep your empty home safe while away

American Shorthair tabby Billie Jean relaxes on her owners couch Monday afternoon, she was rescued from the SPCA a few years ago and is now enjoying her new life, but there are still many animals that could use a good home to be found at the animal rescue centre (photo by Glenn Tucker)

Dear Heather,

We are going on vacation for three weeks. Since you show vacant homes all the time in real estate we thought you might have some tips. There was a break-in in our area recently. What can we do to secure our home while we are away?

Going Away

Dear Going Away,

Many of us relish the summer months because it’s time we can typically take some vacation overseas with family and friends. Burglars also delight in July and August, as they know homeowners are away and some leave their properties as easy targets.

According to police statistics, Bermuda can experience an average of 15 break-ins and burglaries per 1,000 dwelling units per month in the summer. This, being a combination of tourist and residential accommodation, can amount to as much as 450 break-ins every month.

A significant number of break-ins could be prevented with simple precautions such as cancelling a newspaper delivery, placing timers on lamps and televisions, having a neighbour take in the mail, and cutting back shrubbery near doors and windows, which could provide a great hiding place for a would-be burglar.

“Lighting is a burglar’s biggest deterrent, so be sure to install adequate exterior lighting,” recommend the police. Light, time, and noise are a homeowner’s greatest weapons in the fight to prevent a home burglary.

It also helps if you let a friend or relative have a key to the property, and have them check it on a regular basis. Let a good neighbour know that you will be away so that they will be alert to noticing anything irregular or suspicious. If possible, have someone stay at your house and house-sit your pets — your house will be safer and your pets will be happier.

Securing your home, whether you’re home or away for just a few minutes, could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars; but not just that. Many people complain the biggest issue is that of invasion of privacy and theft of items with tremendous sentimental value. Here are some tips to follow before you go on vacation:

• Examine your house from the street and make sure no valuables, such as expensive electronics or artwork, are visible. If a passer-by can see your belongings, so can criminals.

• Lock and fasten all doors and windows. Doors should have deadbolt locks with a one-inch throw and reinforced strike plate.

• Secure sliding glass doors. Place a metal rod or wooden pole in the track to prevent an intruder from forcing the door open.

• Always lock the door to your attached garage.

• Make it appear that you’re home — use timers on lights, radios and televisions.

• Keep the perimeter of your home well lit. You can do this by installing low-voltage outdoor lighting.

• Never leave clues that you are away. Ask a neighbour to collect your mail and newspapers, or ask for them to be held. You may also want to ask a neighbour to park in your driveway so it appears someone is home.

• Keep some shades and blinds up and curtains open to keep a normal appearance.

• Have a responsible person house-sit your property and/or look after your pets.

• Never leave a message on your answering machine saying you are on vacation.

• Do not advertise on Facebook or other social media that you are on vacation.

• Trim the shrubbery near your home’s entrance, windows and walkway. This prevents a would-be burglar from hiding in tall, bushy foliage.

• Organise, or join, a community watch programme to protect your neighbourhood.

• If you have a home security system, make sure it is activated when you leave. The more difficult you make it for the intruder, the less likely he or she will be to pursue forcing their way into your home.

The Police Crime Prevention Department has officers available who can survey your home and provide you with a copy of their security survey. Visit www.bermudapolice.bm for more information on crime prevention.

•Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty’s leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for 25 years. If you have a question for Heather, please contact her at hchilvers@brcl.bm or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Read this article on Facebook: Ask Heather Real Estate