Counting Crime is a Herald series looking at where and when offending is happening in the community - and who the victims are. Each day we will look at a different category of crime and examine the numbers, meet the people affected the most and reveal the times, days and places you are more likely to fall victim. Today we look at burglaries and how to avoid your home being hit by thieves.

Recent research revealed about one in three people in New Zealand have experienced a burglary.

A shocking 63 per cent of those burglaries happened while people were away from home for less than 24 hours.

The research, carried out by Colmar Brunton and commissioned by AA Insurance, began with a survey of 1100 people across the country.

Of those burgled, 13 per cent were home when they were targeted, 23 per cent away for a short period, 39 per cent out for the day and 25 per cent away on holiday.


The survey was provided to the Herald for this week's data-based series Counting Crime.

Counting Crime: check out your neighbourhood at Herald Insights here.

The survey also revealed that 85 per cent of respondents locked their home "every time" they left, no matter how long they were going to be away for.

Only 20 per cent left a spare key on the property and 61 per cent locked the doors while they were at home.

The survey also covered home security and found that 49 per cent of people had deadlocks on their doors, 48 per cent installed window locks, 34 per cent had an audible alarm, 24 per cent had a dog specifically to enhance security, 21 per cent had a safety chain on the front door, 14 per cent had a safe for valuables, 12 per cent had a monitored alarm system and 8 per cent had CCTV or security cameras.

Just 8 per cent of people surveyed had no security.

AA Insurance said some recent claims showed the lengths burglars would go to to get their hands on valuables - and the resulting cost.

One woman returned home from holiday to find her jewellery including diamond rings, watch and necklaces stolen, as well as her laptop.


The burglars had also significantly damaged her home, breaking windows, gates and external sensor lights.

Her insurance claim was more than $51,000.

Another customer was overseas and a neighbour called police after the house alarm activated several times on a Saturday night.

The neighbour investigated and saw the burglar flee with $16,000 worth of jewellery, laptops, blankets, shoes, sunglasses and perfume.

The thief had smashed into the house causing extensive damage - the back door had to be replaced - and the claim totalled $21,000.

There are a number of ways to protect your property - while you're at home and away.

• Always lock up. Burglars often enter through unlocked doors and windows or they take advantage of weak locks.

• Install good-quality locks and use them. Check that you will be able to escape easily in a fire or other emergency.

• Lock the front door if you're in the back garden.

• Lock your house if you are having a rest or doing something that needs a lot of concentration, such as studying or sewing.

• Lock away tools and ladders because burglars could use them to break in.

• Lock garden sheds and your garage if you can.

• Sensor lights are an excellent security device because they light up automatically if somebody moves nearby.

• Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they don't provide hiding places for burglars.

• Keep windows secure.

• Guard your keys. Don't have personal details on your keys (such as your name, phone number or address).

• Don't leave house keys with your car keys when your car is being serviced.

• Don't invite burglars in - never leave notes on a door stating that you are out.

• When you go away, make sure your home looks "lived in".

Before you go away

• Tell your neighbour when and where you're going. Cancel mail and newspaper. Give your neighbour a contact phone number, put a lamp on a timer, open curtains, blinds up, turn the telephone ringer sound down, lock all doors and close all windows.

• Ask your neighbour to clear your letterbox, close your curtains at night, use your clothesline occasionally, watch your home, use your driveway occasionally, report any suspicious behaviour.

Identify and mark your valuables

When claiming insurance you must be able to prove you owned any stolen items claimed for.

Burglars are unlikely to steal items that are permanently marked because they're hard to sell.

• Keep receipts, warranties, valuations and a list of serial numbers in a safe place.

• Take photographs or videos of jewellery, art works and other precious things.

• Portable items of high value are the most likely things to be stolen.

• Engrave valuable items with your driver licence number, car registration number or phone number.

If you have engraved your valuable property or recorded the serial numbers of items, Neighbourhood Support can provide you with a warning sticker to put on a window.

The sticker will discourage most criminals from taking your property because they know there is a greater risk of getting caught or traced if they handle and try to sell identifiable goods.