Hidden costs of burglaries add up
I watched a man installing alarms and security cameras at his home the other day.
He’s determined not to be burgled again and was doing what the police call ‘‘target hardening’’.
It was a sight that chills the heart. The money spent on installing those devices should have gone on other, more worthwhile things: Paying down debt, building up savings, stuffing the kids’ university funds, even living it up.
Despite official figures showing burglaries are falling, spending on antiburglary measures doesn’t seem to be, including more and more homes disappearing behind blank-faced stone walls and security gates.
It’s part of the hidden costs of crime. Burglary is a plague it’s hard to escape. One survey last year found four in 10 adults had been burgled at some point in their lives, rising to nearly half in Auckland.
People who suffer breakins find out about the other hidden costs of burglary.
First, there are the higher insurance premiums for luckless homeowners who are repeatedly burgled or who live in burglary-blighted areas. Victims also find claims paid under their contents insurance leave them feeling out of pocket.
First there’s the ‘‘excess’’ to pay on the claim. Then there’s the unfortunate fact that not everything taken will be covered by their insurance.
There are two types of policy: ‘‘comprehensive’’ and ‘‘essentials’’. Comprehensive policies cover many items for their ‘‘present value’’, the cost to replace the item with one of similar age and condition. Everything on an essentials policy is covered for present value. The resale value of stuff can drop very quickly. It’s one of the problems with stuff.
Then there are the horrible cases where a person makes a burglary claim and the insurer discovers they forgot, or neglected, to tell it something they should have when they took the policy out.
I remember the case of a man who took out insurance after being burgled. He failed to tell the insurer this material fact so when it happened again, the insurer ripped up the policy.
Contents insurance contains many traps for the unwary. For example, policies require that policyholders ‘‘specify’’ particularly valuable items like pricey jewellery. So read your policy.
But to end on a cheerful note, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of being burgled that don’t cost much.
Keep your place tidy. Mow the lawn.
Clear the letterbox and ask a neighbour to do it when you are away.
Turn on your alarm. About a third of alarm owners routinely fail to use them.
Create hidey-holes for valuables, including jewellery.
Store keys discretely, especially car keys. And do not leave your best stuff on display – or simply don’t keep buying stuff you don’t really need.
We don’t watch TV much so we haven’t upgraded it in 10 years. That TV is somewhat representative of other stuff in our house. We don’t live badly but money has tended to go into the mortgage, not stuff. Burglars can’t nick equity. That takes a different kind of crook.