More than 200,000 “break-and-enters” happen every year in Canada, the majority of which are residential. Cottages are no exception to this rule. As you prepare to close your cottage for the season, here are six surprisingly low-tech and low-cost ways to prevent break-ins during the winter season.
1. Remove all valuables. If you can easily lift it up and walk out with it, so can someone else. Lock up or remove all high-ticket items, including fuel and alcohol. (Let’s face it: even though a major crime operation might not be happening in your area, an unattended cottage full of alcohol is highly attractive to anyone who is out to make some mischief.)
2. Leave your mark. If removing all your valuables isn’t an option, electronics can be engraved with personal identification information, such as your drivers’ license number. Mark sure this number is in a highly visible spot and leave stickers on your windows alerting would-be thieves that “Operation Identification” in effect. This will act as a major deterrent, since marked stolen goods are easier to trace, considerably more difficult to sell, and clear proof of a crime.
But don’t forget about all your valuables—fishing rods and gear, water sports equipment, and lawn mowers can all be targeted—and can all be engraved. Local police detachments often have engravers that you can borrow for this purpose, free of charge.
3. Catalogue your cottage. For all valuables left behind, move them out of the sightline of windows. Once that’s complete, make a list of where they can be found in your cottage, record the serial numbers and take photos. In case of a break and enter, this documentation will prove helpful in filing police reports and insurance claims. On your first return to the cottage, ensure that everything is in its original location.
4. If it has wheels, make sure it can’t roll away. If you leave behind any vehicles or water sports equipment, don’t leave anything on a trailer and make sure they’re winterized and slightly disassembled. This may mean partially disassembling boat motors, removing tracks on snow machines or disengaging ATVs.
5. Join a cottage watch association. Find out if a community watch association already exists in your cottage’s area. If not, consider forming one. Community-driven and supported by police, these groups act as a group watchdog, with neighbours reporting all suspicious behaviour to local law authorities.
6. Hire help. Consider paying someone who lives in the area, such as one of the neighbour’s children, to regularly check in on your cottage. This individual should also be asked to pick up the mail, trim any hedges or lawns, remove shoreline garbage and debris, and to clear the driveway. This helps to maintain the illusion that the cottage is consistently occupied. (Hot top: Your insurance company may give you a deduction for hiring someone, making the cost worthwhile.)