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.

She was burgled four times in 10 days - but a Rotorua pensioner is staying put in her own home and refuses to let the "sick" thieves win.

Anne, who did not want her last name published for security reasons, was burgled four times in March - the thieves came in at least twice while she was at home asleep in her bed.

The 65-year-old had never been burgled before and said the spate of thefts was unbelievable.

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In mid-March she went to bed with her ranch slider slightly open so her cat could come in and out during the night.

She'd often left the door open and had never had a problem.

"I didn't think anything of it, and then this happened," Anne told the Herald as part of the data series Counting Crime, which launched on Monday.

"I have a six-foot high [1.8m] fence all the way around my property too."

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

The thieves still managed to get in, and helped themselves to her handbag, wallet, credit cards and cigarettes.

The next morning Anne got up and realised someone had been in the house.

"It took me a couple of minutes to click, then when the penny dropped I got on the phone to the police," she said.

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The next night after she went to bed the house was burgled again.

This time the doors were all locked as Anne was not taking any chances.

But unbeknown to her the thieves had pinched her house keys in the first burglary.

"This time they came into my bedroom while I was in bed asleep and they went through the little bedside cabinet and took more keys, a wallet and cigarettes," Anne said.

A few nights later they struck again - prompting Anne to change all her locks.

She even changed the door handles on her bedroom and her sister's bedroom so that they could lock them from the inside and stop anyone getting in again at night.

But the thieves came back again.

Anne in the lounge of her suburban Rotorua home surrounded by some of her precious possessions. NZ Herald photograph by Alan Gibson
Anne in the lounge of her suburban Rotorua home surrounded by some of her precious possessions. NZ Herald photograph by Alan Gibson

It's thought they removed the rubber seal from around the window of a spare bedroom and let themselves in the fourth time.

The rubber was found in Anne's rubbish bin a few days later.

Police are investigating all four break-ins and Anne has now installed sensor lights.

She already had an alarm, which she is religious about using when she leaves the house.

"There's really nothing else I can do is there?" she said.

"The only way in now for them is if they break a window."

She said the burglaries were disturbing but she refused to let thieves stress or scare her.

"I'm still living here in my little home and I am prepared to stay here - even after everyting I've been through," she said.

"These people are sick, what's wrong with them to do this?"

Several days after the Herald spoke to Anne, her home was broken into again.

Her neighbour said the thieves tried to break into her kitchen window - breaking the catch.

"Anne's elderly sister, who is staying with her until this is sorted, saw fingers pulling the window open and disturbed them - and they ran off," she said.

"Police came back and finger printed - but couldnt find any prints."

The burglars also ripped out Anne's newly installed sensor lights.

"Poor Anne - this is costing her lots of money and she really is getting beside herself," her neighbour said.

1 in 3 Kiwis experience burglary

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 three in 10 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.

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

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 system, 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 measures in place.

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 then went to investigate 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 - both 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, paper etc give your neighbour a contact phone number, put a lamp on a timer, curtains open, blinds up, turn telephone ringer's 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 attempt to sell identifiable goods.

Read more stories from the series here:

Counting Crime: NZ's CBDs our most dangerous places
Counting Crime: 'His life has been erased'
Counting Crime: Our country's violence fueled by liquor
Smash and grab victim: 'just don't leave stuff in your car'
Car stolen by brazen thieves as couple slept 5m away
An in-depth look at offending and victims in New Zealand
Thefts from cars - when, why, how and who
Retailers in harm's way
Retail thefts cost country $1.2b
Small business owner more vigilant