THE summer travel season is a time for family adventure and relaxation, but is also a season of opportunity for thieves, security experts said, offering some essential tips for maintaining the safety one’s house or apartment while away from home.
Among the various recommendations made by the experts, proper locks for doors were invariably at the top of the list. “Burglars are like anyone else, they prefer to use the door,” said village security chief and former police officer Ronnel Mendoza. “Be sure to install a sturdy deadbolt lock on any outside door.”
Property developer DMCI Homes echoed the same advice for condominium dwellers, and recommended double locks as a prudent security measure. “Even with CCTVs and roaming security guards within the vicinity, burglars have evolved into much wiser and tech-savvy thieves. With the existing set up of condominiums, with only a single door and wall separating each household, this is already heaven for thieves,” the developer said. “As such, homeowners are encouraged to install double-locks that are in line with the developer’s aesthetics. It is better to be safe than sorry.”
Hardware experts at True Value Hardware pointed out that strong locks are not enough, if the door itself is not secure. “The easiest way to get inside a locked door is to kick it,” they said. “To make it strong, install a four-screw strikeplate with three-inch (75 mm) screws, and if you can, use three-inch screws in the door hinges as well, which will make it nearly impossible to break the door down.”
All the experts reminded homeowners to secure their windows as well. “Ground floor windows should have security grills,” Mendoza said. “And all windows should have some kind of lock.” True Value recommended that if a window was difficult to lock or otherwise secure, an inexpensive alarm that would sound if the window was broken or opened is a good option.
Know your neighbors
Being familiar with those around you is simply common sense, Mendoza said. “When you know who lives nearby, who comes and goes regularly, it’s much harder for someone to go unnoticed,” he explained.
DMCI Homes added, “Having strong ties with your neighbors gives you a leverage over other burglars as you will have extra set of eyes looking out for your property other than the surveillance cameras and the security guards.”
Neighbors can also help look after pets, collecting mail or newspapers so they don’t pile up (a sure sign for would-be thieves that no one is at home), and serve as an emergency contact.
DMCI Homes pointed out that in addition to smoke alarms, which are now universally required by condo developers, a security alarm is also a good option. “Aside from adding a protection against multiple dangers, alarm systems should have a 24-hour monitoring capacity, even a dishonest baby sitter can be revealed since you can receive security updates and alerts through emails and text messages,” DMCI said.
Although nearly every condominium property and many subdivisions now have CCTV cameras watching outdoor and common areas, CCTV systems for inside the home are available at a reasonable cost, True Value said. “These can be used with mobile apps that allow you to see what’s going on—hopefully, nothing—inside your home while you’re away, using your smartphone,” True Value explained.
Don’t advertise an empty house
Security chief Mendoza shared a bit of insight that might come as a surprise to some people. “Because we know everyone in the village, and most of them have a Facebook or Twitter account, we can tell who’s not at home even if they don’t inform us, just by following them online,” he said. “Most people share photos or updates of where they are, and that’s understandable, they’re having fun. But burglars know how to use a computer too, and they’ll realize someone’s house is unguarded, especially if it’s a house they’ve been watching for a while, which is what they usually do.”
Although it’s tempting to share photos and stories about one’s out-of-town trip with friends and family online, Mendoza recommended a little self-restraint. “Wait until you come home to post your photos,” he said. “Or if you just can’t help yourself, at least make sure your posts are ‘private’ and only shared with people you trust. You never know who may be watching.”