Nosy neigh­bours unite!


Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - HOME CRIME PREVENTION -

The tem­per­a­ture’s ris­ing, and our thoughts are turn­ing to those all too short summer va­ca­tions. Where to go, what to do, who to see . . . oh, and what about the house while we’re gone? No one wants to re­turn home to smashed doors or win­dows with your life thrown around the house, not to men­tion what might be miss­ing or fur­ther dam­aged.

How do we pro­tect our­selves from the op­por­tunis­tic thief who finds out that our house is un­oc­cu­pied when we’re away? The sim­ple, straight­for­ward an­swer is that you can’t. An en­ter­pris­ing thief is go­ing to get in . . . some­how. How­ever, that doesn’t mean that we must ad­mit de­feat and leave things to chance. As homeowners, we can ei­ther fool a po­ten­tial crook into be­liev­ing that you are at home or make it sig­nif­i­cantly more dif­fi­cult, and thereby riskier, for them to tar­get your res­i­dence.

Alarm com­pa­nies of­ten charge hun­dreds and thou­sands of dol­lars for so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems. While ef­fec­tive, they are by no means fool­proof even if you do have win­dow stick­ers ev­ery­where to ad­ver­tise your sys­tem. For­tu­nately, there are sim­pler and cheaper meth­ods, which are equally as ef­fec­tive, to pro­tect your prop­erty and your­selves while you’re on va­ca­tion.

First and fore­most, make your house look lived in. The like­li­hood of a thief break­ing into your home when they think that peo­ple are there, is se­verely di­min­ished. Keep the grass cut and wa­tered, can­cel news­pa­pers or make sure they are col­lected by a neigh­bour along with any ac­cu­mu­lated mail and fly­ers – prefer­ably at stag­gered times so as not to cre­ate a rou­tine that can po­ten­tially be watched. Fi­nally, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, in­vest in in­te­rior light timers and ex­te­rior light sen­sors. The home will look more like it’s oc­cu­pied if in­te­rior lights turn on and off at the same times as when peo­ple are at home, and it saves on en­ergy costs when lights are not left on around the clock.

Mo­tion sen­sors that ac­ti­vate flood lights around dark ar­eas, es­pe­cially near doors or win­dows that could be used to gain ac­cess to your house, elim­i­nate such an “ad­van­tage.” Trust me; they will be stunned by the sud­den burst of light, as I once was dur­ing my polic­ing ca­reer while re­spond­ing to a res­i­den­tial alarm. I have never been so star­tled in all my life as when I was “sud­denly” lit up af­ter turn­ing around a pitch-dark cor­ner!

If you do have an alarm sys­tem, you must un­der­stand how they work. They DO NOT no­tify the police au­to­mat­i­cally. Mul­ti­ple alarm com­pa­nies sub­scribe to sin­gle mon­i­tor­ing cen­tres which re­ceive the sig­nal from your res­i­dence. Nor­mal pro­to­col is that the alarm com­pany will try to con­tact ei­ther the home­owner via the home phone it­self, or an­other con­tact num­ber to de­ter­mine the le­git­i­macy of the sig­nal. The police are no­ti­fied only if the con­tact per­son in­di­cates that there might be a prob­lem. The av­er­age amount of time for this to ac­tu­ally tran­spire is be­tween four to seven min­utes. By then, if it is a bur­glary, the bad guy is long gone!

Long ago, when I was grow­ing up, we watched the TV pro­gram Be­witched. Mrs. Kravitz was a nosy neigh­bour whose char­ac­ter was lamented on the show, but in real life she is a god­send! As part of your break-in preven­tion plans, try to en­sure that the Mrs. Kravitz in your neigh­bour­hood is some­how alerted when some­thing is not right. Hope­fully, she will call the police to get a jump on things be­fore a crime is com­mit­ted, and the chances of catch­ing the cul­prit are sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased.

As a home­owner, I would en­cour­age oth­ers to be aware of the prin­ci­ples of Crime Preven­tion through En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign CPTED, or en­gage the ser­vices of a CPTED pro­fes­sional. They can ex­am­ine your prop­erty and of­fer tips on how to strengthen your de­fences, and pre­vent fu­ture oc­cur­rences that can oth­er­wise ruin not only your re­turn from, but your en­tire va­ca­tion.

Damien Coake­ley is a re­tired sergeant from the Ottawa Police Ser­vice, and the Pres­i­dent of Ver­i­tas Security Man­age­ment Con­sul­tants. He can be reached via e-mail at

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