With the rise of the share economy offering a number of new accommodation options to suit every budget, as well as great travel offers, many Australians will be travelling in their home state, interstate and overseas over the summer period. By taking a few precautions before you embark on a holiday, it can put your mind at ease and let you enjoy yourself, worry free. Security expert and founder of Australia's highest rated security monitoring centre, Calamity, Daniel Lewkovitz shares 10 tips on how to keep your house safe while you're away.
Make friends with your neighbours
Becoming friends with the neighbours is mutually beneficial. However it's not something people typically do these days. Ask a neighbour to collect mail for you while you're away – as well as to keep an eye out for any leaflets or newspapers left on your doorstep. A neighbour parking in your driveway also signals someone is home (and they will appreciate the extra car space).
Upgrade your defence
One of the more obvious tips is to make sure your security is up to date. Recent ABS research found 60% of victims' security had been compromised due to a faulty deadlock or loose window frame that was easily jemmied open. Delaying intrusion is important. The longer it takes to break the exterior, the safer your house will be. Particularly if an alarm is triggered and the would-be thief is racing against the clock before a responder arrives.
Don't help conceal a thief
Burglars like privacy. They can be deterred from targeting your house by establishing a clear line of sight from the house to the street. This encourages 'natural surveillance" and makes your home a harder target. Remove any bushes or shrubs near an entrance that could help a thief be hidden from a passer-by's view.
Avoid Climbing Points
Criminals know that first-floor and above doors and windows are typically less secure than ground-level entry points. Toeholds such as external air-conditoners and (ironically) window grilles can help criminals gain access to upper levels. Highrise apartment dwellers are not immune. While you may think you live twelve stories up, you are only really one storey above the balcony below yours. Your security is still important.
Alarm and Monitor your home from wherever you are
Alarms are a no-brainer. However some people believe a siren is enough. Even though you're now friends with your neighbours thanks to Tip #1, when your alarm is triggered you cannot rely on others which is why a monitored system is best, Modern IP Monitored security systems allow homeowners to arm and disarm their alarm system, remotely open doors for visitors and even view cameras from their smartphone wherever they are. Not only is this an excellent security improvement it is also a lifestyle benefit. Imagine sitting around the pool on holiday somewhere but still being able to let in a delivery of this month's pet food, or the gardener.
Don't advertise your valuables
If you have expensive items in plain sight you might as well be shouting 'We have money!" to the world. Make sure to conceal any valuable or expensive items by keeping the blinds closed or moving them away from windows. When you unbox this year's Christmas presents, consider what to do with the packaging.
Store valuables in a safe
The most common targets in a robbery are money and jewellery. By installing a quality safe in your house you can provide extra security for those more valuable items. Just remember, criminals know the bedroom safe likely has the jewellery in it. Consider using that as a decoy and installing a better safe somewhere they won't look. Cheap safes sold at hardware stores are very easily forced open and not worth the money.
Forget traditional alarm systems and use 'IP monitoring"
Move away from a traditional telephone based alarm service that can be disconnected with the cut of a pair of scissors. Choose security systems which connect to a monitoring station via the Internet and mobile networks. These cannot be compromised by a perpetrator and are NBN friendly. You don't even need a phoneline any more. Make sure any monitoring provider is -graded' by ASIAL (asial.com.au) or avoid them.
Guard your keys
It is well known that you should not hide keys on the outside of the house. But you should also be aware of the risks involved when lending your keys to tradespeople and acquaintances. Keys are easily copied and can provide burglars with an easy access to your property. Consider an electronic locking system or a -restricted key' system which makes this more difficult. If your house is broken into, immediately change the locks. Your insurer likely includes this in the policy.
Don't share your free house and cool gifts on social media
Stop over sharing. Posting photos of your wonderful holiday to social media might seem like a no brainer but advertising that you're away from home can result in unwelcome visitors. Similarly pictures of all your belongings. If you overshare your private information to the public on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (a completely public network) people will be able to easily compile data including where you live and when you're house is free. Beware of inadvertent location tagging in photos.
Lewkovitz said: 'It's really important that people think about their security when it's quiet and nothing's happening. Rather than calling us after they've suffered loss. We get a mad rush of people every year around Christmas time looking to put security into their homes and businesses. The thing is, criminals work the rest of the year as well. Paying attention early makes it more tempting for criminals to rob someone else instead".
For more information, please visit www.calamity.com.au
Question: How should families upgrade their defence before going on holidays?
Daniel Lewkovitz: This is actually the wrong way to think about security and safety. Don't upgrade it because you're about to go away. Most of your belongings are replaceable. Think about security for when you're at home. You and your loved ones aren't replaceable.
We receive lots of calls from people who want to install an alarm system or upgrade to a monitored system because they were broken into recently. If only they'd considered security before it happened. At a minimum, homes should have solid doors and windows, quality locking devices and a monitored alarm system. Visible security is best, whether it be bars, a dog, cameras or a sign warning of a monitored alarm system. Criminals prefer a 'soft target'. If you make your home a hard target they're more likely to rob your neighbours instead.
Question: Can you talk us through a house climbing points?
Daniel Lewkovitz: Typically ground-floor access points are better secured than higher levels. So while the front door may have three locks on it, if the upstairs window is left ajar or is easily jemmied a criminal can simply get in that way - if they can reach it. Unsecured ladders stored in a side passage are a well-known vulnerability. Less known are air-conditioning units which can be stepped on. Ironically some security grilles actually provide a useful toehold to allow someone to climb to a higher level.
Question: Can you talk about house safety and social media?
Daniel Lewkovitz: Social media is a disaster from a privacy and discretion point of view. Many people, particularly younger users, have all but sacrificed their privacy and constantly 'over share' everything from their location (including holiday details) and assets.
Privacy is rather like virginity. There are lots of fun and tempting excuses to give it away however once it's gone you can never get it back.
Question: How do people 'advertise their valuables"?
Daniel Lewkovitz: Online boasting of "my new ring", their car, their gadgets is an invitation. It's the online equivalent to leaving the gift boxes on your front lawn for recycling the next morning.
Question: Can you give us your top safe tips?
Daniel Lewkovitz: Don't wait until you've suffered a loss to think about your security. That's too late. Think about it now. While it's quiet. That way things will tend to stay quiet.
Question: Should families take extra methods when going on holidays at Christmas?
Daniel Lewkovitz: Security is a year-round obligation. Criminals (who may also go on holiday with their family at Christmas) work all year round.
Question: How can we make our homes looked live in, whilst on holidays?
Daniel Lewkovitz: Instead of doing so just when on holiday, do so when you go out for the day or at night too. Simple tips like leaving lights on a timer or having someone come past to move cars (and mail) around. Just remember that your facade will be easily exposed if a criminal knocks on your door first and nobody answers. Remember to have a properly installed and monitored alarm system.
Interview by Brooke Hunter