In Canada, more than 150,000 break-and-enters are reported to the police annually. Some of these thefts happen in cottage country, where many residences may be left unattended for weeks if not months at a time, especially during the quieter winter season.
According to the OPP’s SafeGuard Ontario Property Security Program, homeowners can help prevent theft by “target hardening” their property and taking steps such as improving landscaping and installing good doors and locks. Many burglars are looking for easy targets, and you want to install deterrents and make your property more secure against break-and-enters.
“What makes cottages appealing [to thieves] is they’re set in an area where it’s rural and there’s not too many other properties around it,” says Jeff Handsor, a Provincial Constable with the OPP. “It’s harder to see the cottage from the roadway quite often.”
“You want to increase the visibility of your property,” says Handsor. “It could be clearing a bush from around your cottage to installing flood lights on the outside.” Devices like smart doorbells and weatherproof security cameras can also help with deterring thieves and allowing you to monitor your property from afar.
Beyond common-sense steps such as making sure your doors and windows, including garage doors, are locked and secured, you’ll want to avoid leaving things out on your property that can be used to gain entry—put away tools such as a rake or shovel, and even clear small rocks from around your cottage. You could remove or put away electronics from sight, and mark valuables so that they’re not attractive to steal.
“Quite often you’ll find in the cottage areas there are people that live there year round,” says Handsor. “Leave your keys with a person you trust, a neighbor or friend, and don’t try and use a secret hiding place.” Establishing a network of trusted neighbours and friends in your cottage area is also key because they can help you keep an eye on the property. Ensuring driveways are cleared of snow in the winter and papers are picked up from the end of the drive are signs that a would-be thief would note, because they convey that a cottage is currently occupied and therefore not an easy target.
For the same reason, avoid sharing your movements and travels on social media. “Do not put things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—where you’re going to go or if you’re not going to be around,” advises Handsor. “Even when you’re away, hold off on putting those things up until you come back.”
Finally, if you’ve discovered that someone has broken into your cottage, call the police immediately—but do not go into your property. By entering the crime scene, you may be inadvertently destroying evidence.
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