As travelers, we have to deal with a lot of challenges on the road but one thing we don’t usually take into account is the impact of frequent travel to the safety of our homes. Unfortunately, in the excitement of preparing for our weekend getaways, we often forget there are also unscrupulous elements who are also excited for us to leave our homes so that they can steal our valuables and profit from them.
In the last quarter of 2014, the Philippine National Police has reported an increase of index crimes to 25,354, up 19.3 percent from 2013 records. Burglaries/Robberies account for 5,189 of the number, which is also up from the previous year, indicating a fresh boldness and creativity in the culprits, which if left unchecked will lead to more victims.
Countless police advisories and blogs have shared tips on how to keep intruders from preying on your home while you’re on vacation. I did my best to compile the applicable tips along with my personal experience/ friends’ advice and hope these will help you enjoy your trip with a lot more peace of mind.
1. Secure your home. Before you embark on your journey, make sure that you have unplugged your appliances to protect your home from power surges (except for refrigerators and essentials) and locked all of the doors to your home. Double check gas ranges and water faucets to ensure that there will also be no leaks of any sort while you’re away. if you leave any of these unchecked, you may end up with a fire or a flood in your house while you’re not around.
2. Keep your valuables in unexpected places. Burglars will always go for vaults, safes and locked drawers to secure your valuables. Leave yours in places that are not as obvious. A shoebox on your shoe cabinet? An old purse behind your bookshelf? Whatever is more unexpected.
3. Travel in shifts. My family and I usually travel in shifts. I would book my parents’ to travel, mine and one of my folks, or I leave and they stay. Very rarely do we all go together at once because we don’t want to leave the house unattended.
4. Leave a relative/ neighbor in charge. In these rare occasions that we travel together at the same time, we leave my aunt in charge of our house and leave a set of keys with her so she can check the house regularly, and of course, feed my cats. If you don’t have a relative nearby, you can ask a trustworthy neighbor to keep an eye on things and text you if there is anything irregular that he/ she notices. That way, you can keep tabs on your home and report to authorities if you suspect anything to be amiss. You can also inform the Homeowners’ Association so that security can take particular note of your home when patrolling, or detect red flags when someone “comes to see you” when no one is home.
5. Don’t leave spare keys in secret hiding places. Some of us keep copies of our home’s keys under plant boxes or under a rug in case we lock ourselves out but this is not a good idea while we’re away because burglars will definitely try to find these to give them swifter access to our homes.
6. Lights on, lights off? You may want to leave lights on so that your homes don’t go completely dark and broadcast the fact that no one’s inside, but a better option is getting someone to turn it on and off at the right times. This is not only practical but safer as well because if left for too long, lights can become a fire hazard too (overheating). Still, if you don’t want to bother anyone, there are lights that have a built in sensor that detects light and darkness and responds accordingly. This may not be such a bad idea.
7. Maintain the appearance of normalcy. Don’t advertise the fact that you’re away by shutting up the house completely. If you have curtains and you leave them partially open, leave it as such (but windows should still be closed as this could serve as an entry point). A friend once advised me to hang some laundry outside (garage/terrace) to give an illusion that the owners are inside as per usual.
8. Turn off auto location tags on your social media accounts. Criminals are becoming more and more creative and most now take their cue from your vacation photos and status messages uploaded online. If they think that you’re away and the house is fair game, don’t think for a second that they won’t take this as an opportunity to loot.
9. Invest in home security. CCTV’s are an important tool to protect homes nowadays because it allows homeowners to monitor their homes while they’re away through gadgets like tablets. It may be advisable to also install alarms on your doors and vehicles so it will create noise when being forcibly opened to alert the neighbors. These don’t have to be expensive as contact alarms can cost as low as P100.
Remember guys, what’s important is not to make it easy for these unscrupulous elements to invade your homes. Sometimes, the best deterrent to crime is to make sure that you will be a difficult victim. While its important to rest and unwind, its also important to make sure that when you get back to reality, you will return to a home that’s safe and secure.