Expert puts Bay home's security to the test

By Paul Miller

In our ongoing Keeping our Homes Safe campaign, Hawke's Bay Today asked Napier Police stalwart Paul Miller to talk us through the strengths and vulnerabilities of a residential home on Napier Hill.

The location, alarm sensors and security lights got Napier Police crime prevention adviser Paul Miller's instant approval, and with the occupants of the property in tow, it was a reassuring start to the assessment.

"It's a good location in terms of your openness to the road," he says. "That's a really good feature."

As part of Hawke's Bay Today's Keeping Our Homes Safe burglary awareness campaign, Mr Miller and Hawke's Bay Today teamed up to inspect a typical Hawke's Bay property's security strengths and weaknesses.

The campaign coincides with a traditional mid-year rise in burglaries and police's Operation Winter, in which officers would be making a concerted effort to put pressure on known burglars and reduce their opportunities to offend.

"They tend to prefer a house that isn't apparently alarmed," Mr Miller says. "That would be something they'd look at. If people have concerns about their property and if they can afford it, then that would be a strong recommendation. A very low percentage of houses with alarms get burgled."

Moving on, at the front door is a feature typical of many modern homes, he says. A glass panel beside a non-dead bolt door lock. Despite burglars' aversion to loud noises such as breaking glass, all it takes is to break the panel, reach in to the inside handle, and the door is open.

"Once you've broken this - you're in the house," Mr Miller says. "Builders are still building houses with those panels and I spoke to a developer about that recently and they had never considered it to be a weakness. If you wanted to get in there and [to] your property, to break that glass, that's it - you're in."

We venture around the home and come across an old fashioned sliding door and much to the occupants' relief, a forceful lifting, shaking and battering by Mr Miller doesn't pop the lock open. A tip is to put a broomstick or a piece of wood in the door's lower channel, preventing the door being slid open from the outside if the lock fails.

Some old fashioned louvre windows dotted about the house are found to be an issue because when opened, the glass panes can be easily removed. Mr Miller's advice is to simply "drop a little bit of glue onto each of the glass panes... then the only way you're going through that is by breaking it".

Similarly, tiny windows left open during the day are a major vulnerability for many homes.

"Maybe a third and sometimes a higher percentage of houses broken into are broken into through a window left open," he says.

A small gap you may think is too small for a person to squeeze through presents an easy opportunity, and as Mr Miller puts it: "You've got to remember some of these burglars are 12 or 13 years old".

Making it hard for the burglar isn't just about installing locks and alarms. Obvious and free methods which help include storing your valuables out of sight and noting serial numbers. But even serial numbers have their weaknesses.

"The downside of serial numbers these days is they're printed on the back and can be pulled off. I'd like to see these things marked with some identifying mark that's unique to you."

Scratching your initials somewhere on your television means, if stolen, the mark will go on its file and can be searched for by police. Even if you receive a replacement TV without any cost to yourself through your insurance company, it could help police charge the offender.

Finally Mr Miller arrives at a familiar sight at the back door - an old-fashioned lock and key.

"Every house had one of these in the back door at one stage," he says.

"I used to carry a set that had five keys and they used to open all those back doors."

Leaving the key in its lock on the inside goes some way to mitigating this.

His final advice is simple: Be proactive in your neighbourhood. If you see anything suspicious, call it in to police.

"It might be okay, but it could be a burglar."

How you can reduce the risk of being burgled

  • Set up or join a Neighbourhood Support Group.

  • Make sure entry and exit points from your house have effective catches and locks.

  • If you are going out or away don't leave a door key hidden outside.

  • Keep garden sheds and garages secure.

  • Install sensor lights on access paths or around main external doors.

  • Ask unannounced visitors who they are and what they want.

  • Get to know your neighbours.

  • If you're going away, ask someone to collect your mail or newspaper and make the house look occupied.

  • Mark valuable property with serial numbers and keep a record of these numbers.

  • Place 'Beware of Dog' signs on the gate or fence.

  • If you have an answer phone, don't record a message that suggests you're out or alone.

  • Don't hesitate to call police to report something out of the ordinary.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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