Hid­den costs of bur­glar­ies add up

Central Leader - - OPINION -

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.

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