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Police Officer: How to Protect Your Wealth from Thieves

This comes straight from the writing of a police officer on Reddit, who was answering the following question on how to protect your wealth from thieves:

“Former burglars of reddit, where is one place people should never hide valuables?”

Here is his answer:

Hiding your valuables is fine, but ideally you don’t want to get even to the point where someone is in your house. Most people worried about where to hide their valuables would be better off spending time considering their house’s security from the outside.

My advice:

  1. Front perimeter. Unless you have a gated mansion then your front door is going to be accessible from the street. That means there is no benefit security-wise in high fences, prickly hedges, etc. All these do is screen your house from view, making it far easier for someone to break into without being seen. If you’re looking at two houses and only one can be seen from the road then you’re 100% going to be breaking into the other. That’s why picket fences, low hedges/walls, etc. are ideal. A gravel driveway is a nice touch too – nice and noisy so anyone approaching your house makes their presence known.
  2. Rear perimeter. Completely the opposite advice is true here. At least here in the UK, the rear of most houses is shielded from view, so anyone getting into your back garden will have undisturbed access to your house. So you want to shield your house from view and make access difficult. Tall hedges, solid fences, prickly bushes, etc. are your friends.
  3. Flat rooves. Here in the UK it’s common to have a single story garage with a flat roof attached to your house. Often the house will have a window that opens over it. That window needs to be closed.
  4. Exterior lighting, cameras and alarms. Both make a house much less attractive to a burglar. Lights (both motion-sensing and just a simple porch light) make someone scoping out the house or trying to force entry much more visible. Cameras and alarms are pretty obvious deterrents. Again, it’s about making your house a less tempting target than others as opposed to creating an impenetrable fortress.
  5. Sheds. Sheds are a soft touch for burglary. Garden tools, bikes, DIY tools, etc. are expensive and very easy to sell second hand. Go on Ebay and look at the price of a decent second hand petrol mower or leaf blower – that’s easy money and low risk when you consider that it takes about 2 seconds to cut off a padlock and no-one will be sleeping in the shed. Don’t leave expensive kit in sheds, cover the windows so that the contents can’t be readily seen, and install motion-sensing lighting to cover them. If you’re keen as mustard, there are even cheap wireless alarms that link to basically a doorbell in the house. But the best advice is just be sensible what you’re storing there.
  6. Breaking and entering tools. Don’t leave your ladders and other tools that can be used to break into your house readily accessible outside it. I’ve seen houses with open upstairs windows and a set of ladders stored visibly down one side of the house. If you’re leaving out tools that a burglar can use to break into your house then you’re doing it wrong.
  7. Tradesmen. When you park your van outside your house you are saying “I’ve got expensive tools here”. Don’t leave them in your van.
  8. Letterboxes. This probably isn’t an issue for the states, but here in the UK we have letterboxes through our front doors. Most people also keep their house and car keys by the front door. If you can look through your letterbox and see your keys then you need to move them – they can easily be hooked through the letterbox using e.g. the top segment of a fishing rod. Then someone will be driving around in your car with a set of keys to your house.
  9. Spare keys. Don’t hide a key outside your house. Certainly don’t hide it in a fake rock etc. If you absolutely must, then at least bury it in a flower bed or something. You’re better off leaving a key with a friend (or burying it in their flower bed, if you must) – but don’t give it to them with a keyring identifying your house! Also, don’t leave a spare key in your car – someone breaking into your car won’t need to look up your address – there’ll always be some paperwork or other in there that identifies it.
  10. Perhaps most importantly, get to know your neighbours and share your plans with them. If you’re going away for a week then tell them. Neighbours who generally know each others’ habits will notice when there is a strange van parked in your drive, or lights are mysteriously turning on whilst you’re out of town. And they’ll be more likely to act rather than minding their own business.
  11. Be conscious of what you can see through your windows. For example, as you approach my front door you walk past the window to a room full of various computing kit that look expensive. When I’m not using the room, I normally close the blind simply to conceal what’s inside – otherwise I’m suggesting to anyone calling at the house for any reason that there is expensive gear lying around the place.

Finally, break into your house. Or at least, figure out how you would. That will show you the weaknesses. When I was a student I was really bad at locking myself out of the house and would regularly need to break in. I’ve climbed the back fence to access a backdoor I suspected was left unlocked, used a piece of card to flick open the locks on sash windows, managed to wriggle down an old coal chute into the cellar, etc. Each time I’d fix the problem but next time I was faced with the need to get inside I’d find another way in. It’s a very helpful exercise to test your security.

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