Liam Croke: Don’t make it easy for burglars to rob you

It takes about eight minutes, that’s all. In and out and they’re gone. That’s the average time a thief stays in the house they are robbing.

It takes about eight minutes, that’s all. In and out and they’re gone. That’s the average time a thief stays in the house they are robbing.

I met a couple last week whose house was burgled the day before. They told me how the night before they went out for a couple of hours, returned home and it was about 30 minutes before they actually realised anything had happened.

They had made a cup of tea, began to watch the TV and it was only when one of them had to go to the toilet upstairs did they discover what had happened in their bedroom. It was completely ransacked: clothes everywhere, drawers turned over, mattress turned upside down.

The shock and the fear that gripped them, they told me, was literally overwhelming.

They called the gardai to report the crime; officers turned up very quickly and were very helpful. Theirs was the sixth house, the gardai told them, robbed that night.

A small amount of cash was taken, but all of her jewellery. You can replace cash but it’s hard to replace a 53-year-old engagement ring.

Here are some shocking statistics when it comes to house burglaries, I came across when I decide to write about this subject matter this week:

n 20% - the amount burglaries have increased by in the last year

n 73 – the number of homes burgled in Ireland every day

n 3 – the amount of houses broken into every hour

n 350 – the number of convicted burglars that are held in jail at any one time

n Thursday – the day your home is most likely to be broken into

n November – the month of the year that has the highest rates of burglary

n €1,868 – the average value taken from a house that’s burgled

n 80% - of homes are burgled during the day

n 12 – 4pm - the most likely time of the day a house will be broken into

n 74% - of homes burgled did not have a monitored alarm in place

n Bungalows – are broken into 15% more than semi-detached properties . Terraced houses – are the least likely to be broken into

n 10 – you are 10 times more likely to have your house broken into if you don’t have visible outdoor security i.e. an alarm system

n 50% - of Irish homes do not have a burglar alarm

n 25% - of homeowners leave spare keys in obvious places outside their home

Lessons need to be learned from the misfortune of others so that it doesn’t happen to you, so in this article I am going to give you some tips on how to protect your home.

The first place they head to when they break in is the master bedroom. Here, they are looking for cash and jewellery.

They are not interested in TVs, silverware or any items big or small that might hinder their escape or something that might ever be traced back to your house when they try to pass them on for cash.

The most common way a burglar will enter your home is either through a front or back door. Before they try to gain access they may first just simply knock on your front door to see if anybody is home. And if nobody answers and the front door is locked they will proceed around to your back door and try to gain entry from there.

So, what you have to do, to prevent them from thinking your house is an easy target is to make your house appear hard for them to get into.

The biggest deterrent in this regard is having an alarm in your home. In a survey carried out last year, 82 imprisoned burglars were asked what kind of security features would stop them from thinking of robbing a house and 84% of them cited a house fitted with an alarm.

So, convicted burglars are saying that they would not willingly enter a house fitted with a working alarm which seems to overwhelmingly suggest that investing in a good quality alarm is the best way of reducing your risk of being burgled.

There are other things you can do to the outside of your home like having good side and back lighting that is either timed to come on at night or will be activated by sensors. Again these are not to be underestimated so make sure they are working. Giving a thief the protection of darkness makes their job that much easier.

Burglars hate dogs, big or small it doesn’t matter. So, if you have one then great, but even if you don’t make it appear that you do. Get a beware of the dog sign and put it out front and even consider getting a dog bowl and chain and leave it by your back door.

OK, after all that and they still get into your home, they have eight minutes and they are heading straight to your bedroom so first and foremost please don’t put cash into drawers or under your mattress. If you do they will be found.

If you have a jewellery box, that is where you should put all your inexpensive jewellery into – this is your decoy because a burglar won’t be getting out their loupe to look at the grade of diamonds or gold, they will just take it and run. So, don’t put the expensive stuff into it, put them somewhere else, ideally into a well hidden safe. And again don’t have the safe in your bedroom – if you want to hide anything whether it is locked in a safe or not, the best places to hide it is in the attic. Burglars don’t like going into places that they can’t easily escape from and the attic is one place they won’t want to go into.

Another place to put valuables into is a children’s room, in a utility room, in a breakfast cereal box in your kitchen, in a plastic bag in the freezer, in an envelope tied to the underside of the dogs bed etc.

There is probably no way you can totally burglar-proof your home. The best strategies are to make it as hard to get into in the first place and if they do, try to limit what they get away with. And I know that some of things I have referred to are not new and it isn’t rocket science but a little reminder never hurts. And yes in the end what a burglar might get away with may just be material things, but the reality is that they take an awful lot more because victims are often haunted for years by the violation that someone was in their home... and that is something no-one should have to go through.