Expats and travellers warned against imaginative ways to protect their property

by Ray Clancy on July 27, 2010

Expats, holidaymakers and travellers staying away from their homes for long periods of time are increasingly taking to hiding their valuables in the fight against prospective burglars.

They even take some rather unusual steps such as sewing jewellery into curtains and making their front doors scruffy in an attempt to disguise the true value of the contents inside their homes, according to research from insurer Hiscox.

More imaginative methods though to deter thieves don’t always work, as they are adept at monitoring houses they think are empty and notice tricks like washing hanging in the garden that has not been taken in for several days.

Hiscox’s senior risk and valuation advisor Andrew Cheney said that it is better to rely on the traditional deterrents such as preventing criminals from accessing the home in the first instance.

‘Homeowners can be quite creative in their attempts at securing their valuables. However, many of their inventive hiding places are quite obvious to most thieves, and there’s also the danger of forgetting them. What happens when you take the clothes or shoes you’ve hidden away your jewellery in to the dry cleaners or have a wardrobe clear out?’ he said.

‘Think of your property with rings of security from the outer perimeter of your garden and driveway to the inside of your home. There are ways of securing your boundaries and driveway, followed by the main property and outbuildings. Then you can think about added protection for your valuables inside the home. This technique has the effect of wearing an intruder down,’ he explained.

Physical barriers such as trees, walls or railings act as a deterrent to criminals and can be supplemented with gravel paths and motion sensitive lighting around the property, so that thieves know that their arrival can be clearly heard and seen, the company says.

External doors should be fitted with a deadlock, which should be used even when the property is occupied. On patio doors, a cube lock or key operated bolts should be fitted to prevent them from being lifted or removed. Key operated window locks, in addition to any latches, should be fitted to all vulnerable windows.

The company also points out that criminals often target outbuildings looking for valuable gardening and sports equipment. ‘When protecting your home, it is important that security is extended to the outbuildings by adequately protecting all doors and windows. Use padlocks and deadlocks on shed and garage doors and consider painting over windows so criminals cannot see the equipment stored inside,’ it adds.

It also says that jewellery, cash and other high value items should be locked away in a safe and it is important that the keys or combination codes are kept secure and away from the safe itself. ‘For particularly high value items or jewellery that is rarely worn, consider putting them in a safe security box or bank vault. Spreading your items in this way is a sensible precaution to take, as it reduces the total value of goods in your home and could also reduce your premium,’ it says.

Timer operated lights, window blinds or curtains are a good way of giving the impression that your home is occupied when you’re not there. And if you’re away for a longer period, it’s a good idea to arrange for a family member or friend to housesit or visit your home regularly to open and close curtains and pick up post and other deliveries. ‘It may be sensible to tell the local police and your alarm company if you are going to be away for a long time,’ the company concludes.

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