Opportunity is a thief’s best friend. Which is something Melbourne couple Andrew and Sara learnt the hard way. At about 7.30 on a Tuesday evening in late November this year, a strong gust of wind blew open the couple’s unsecured front door – leaving their home and valuables wide open to a couple of crooks who just happened to be walking by.

The prowling pair entered the home, all while the family was going out about the nightly routine in the kitchen and living area, and in a few short minutes made off with Andrew’s wallet and Sara’s handbag. In addition to containing her credit cards and driver’s licence, her handbag also contained her car keys.

It wasn’t until the following morning when the bank alerted them to fraudulent activity on their credit cards that the couple discovered their wallet and purse had been stolen. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when they walked out the front door they realised their car was no longer in the driveway.

Andrew and Sara’s story is an unfortunate example of how quickly and effortlessly thieves can take off with your valuables, particularly if given the right opportunity. According to a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology[i], it takes only two minutes to break into a home and the average burglary is over in 10 minutes – about the same amount of time it would take you to cook some snags on the backyard BBQ.

And thieves need even less time to rob you of your valuables if they have access to expensive possessions left outside of the home such as bikes, tools and gardening equipment. In fact, recent crime statistics showed that theft from a dwelling was the only major offence to record an upward trend, despite break-and-enter offences being on the decline, signalling an increase in opportunistic thefts from backyards, carports, garages, sheds, driveways and verandahs.[ii]

Now that the Aussie summer is in full swing and the Christmas holiday period is upon us, householders should be looking to take some sensible precautions to help protect their home and belongings – regardless of whether you’re going around the world, entertaining at home among the gum trees, or hanging the washing on the clothesline out the back.

Here are some of our top burglary prevention tips:

  • If you’re having a party, keep the front door locked and have your guests ring the bell or call your phone to avoid unwanted party guests
  • A security audit will help you identify ways a burglar could enter your home. Many locksmiths and security companies offer these services. They may recommend improvements such as back-to-base monitored alarms, better locks and security screens for doors and windows
  • If you're a renter, ask your landlord to invest in window locks and deadbolts on external doors
  • Don't hide keys outside your home for friends and family members
  • Cut back bushes near doors and windows to reduce hiding places
  • Thieves may use your own equipment to break in. Lock away any ladders, gardening equipment or work tools
  • Avoid tempting thieves. Break down the packaging from recent expensive purchases, such as TVs or laptops, and place in recycling bins. Boxes left outside simply advertise what's inside your home.

In addition to taking security precautions, and for further peace of mind, you could also take advantage of the holiday break and investigate whether your current insurance cover meets your needs. Understand Insurance’s Household Inventory Checklist can help: http://understandinsurance.com.au/calculators

Check out more home security tips here.