Home Security

Older Canadians, more than any other segment of the population, are increasingly being targeted by criminals. The daily press is full of reports of seniors being scammed — their savings accounts emptied by phony bank inspectors. Or they may be duped into paying large amounts of cash up-front for services or goods which never get delivered.

But increasingly, 50-plussers are becoming the target of other crimes such as break-ins, battering… even rape. Much can be done to protect ourselves, our families, homes and possessions from a determined — and often creative — criminal element. All you have to do is learn to harden the target.

The home security survival guide
Much can be done to make your home a harder target for criminals to crack.

  • Trimming shrubs and hedges will prevent them from being used as cover for burglars or anyone intent on assault.

  • Use electronic timers to switch outside lights on, particularly if you plan on being away until nightfall.

  • Timers should also be added to indoor lights. Select rooms that you use most often, and set timers so lights are switched on and off at different times — take a few moments nong your own regular routines for greater authenticity.

  • Motion or sound detectors can activate alarms and exterior lights, and are an inexpensive deterrent to would-be burglars. Also, check with your local hydro company about having a streetlight attached to a nearby utility pole.

  • Most burglaries involve a door — replace any flimsy outside doors with sturdier metal models, and add deadbolts. Sliding patio doors can be secured by placing a metal or wooden rod along the runner.

  • An automatic garage door opener will allow easier access (for you, not the crooks), allowing you to tuck yourself away inside your car before heading out… and preventing anyone from pouncing upon you when you return.

  • All windows should have strong interior locks added.

  • Add a peep hole to all exterior doors — this will allow you to identify callers without having to open the door.

  • An answering machine or voice mail service is a good (and relatively cheap) investment. Messages should be straight forward and not too detailed — leave just your phone number, nothing more. Indicate you’re busy elsewhere in the house, and "can’t come to the phone right now." If you’re a woman living alone, ask a male friend or relative to record a message for you (it also doesn’t hurt to have a dog barking somewhere in the background).

  • Look into having a security system added to your arsenal of anti-thievery gadgets (surveys show that homes without alarms make up 75 per cent of break-in targets). These vary in cost and features — weigh your needs against your budget, and get as many quotes as possible before making a commitment. Top-of-the-line systems will trigger a call to a central monitoring service, which in turn will alert police and neighbours that a break-in is in progress.

  • Neighbours are an invaluable resource. Get to know them, and inform them if you plan on being away from home for extended periods of time. Neighbours can also help by collecting newspapers, mowing the grass, and generally keeping an eye on things.