Your sanctuary away from the city can quickly seem not-so-safe if you’re the victim of a break-and-enter. Often simple crimes of opportunity, cottage break-ins may not ever be fully preventable—but there are steps you can take to reduce the loss of property and peace of mind that goes along with this kind of crime.
Keep everything valuable out of view
When you go home at the end of the weekend, make sure everything is out of view if someone looks in your windows. (Choosing whether or not to draw the curtains is up to you—some experts suggest leaving them slightly open so would-be thieves can see there’s nothing to steal.) Put any electronics, computers or flat-screen TVs out of sight in an interior room or closet. Make sure to store any expensive sports equipment in a shed or other locked area. When you close up for the winter, take everything home with you. Remember: if you can carry it, so can someone else—right out the door.
Install trail or dock cams
Technology can be a real help when it comes to keeping an eye on your cottage when you’re away. Motion-sensitive digital cameras (the kind used by hunters and nature photographers) can help document anything—or anyone—who comes onto your property when you’re not there, snapping pics of license plates and faces that can be used if something does happen.
Use motion-sensitive exterior lighting
Lighting that comes on only when something moves means you don’t have to leave a light burning all night—but can provide an unwelcome surprise for someone who doesn’t want to be spotted. Yes, you may get a few stunned foxes and skunks, but you might also deter some two-legged creatures who would rather stay in the dark.
Embrace the lived-in look
Cottages are broken into most often when it looks obvious that no one has been there for a long time, so make sure your cottage is maintained, even if you’re not there. Pay a property management company to cut the grass and shovel, if necessary. Ask your neighbours to park in your driveway or tie up at your dock occasionally. And make sure you have some interior lights on timers so the cottage doesn’t stay dark the whole time you’re gone. You can even go so far as to leave inexpensive gardening tools out in the yard so it looks like someone has been working in the garden.
Make friends with your neighbours
Your neighbours, especially if they live at the lake year-round, can be the best defence you’ve got against burglars. Not only can they keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious, but they can help give your place a more lived in look, either through cutting your grass occasionally, leaving footprints in the snow or making snowmobile tracks along your driveway. Make sure your neighbours have a spare key to your place, as well as your contact info in the city. And figure out a really nice way to say thank you when you get back.
Use signs to your advantage
Posting “No Trespassing” or “Property is Monitored” signs at the cottage is a good way to let potential thieves know that you’ve thought about security and aren’t going to make their jobs easy. Make sure to post signs around your dock as well as your driveway, since boats are great getaway vehicles whenever there isn’t ice. You can also post a sign on your door explaining that the cottage has no alcohol, firearms, computer equipment, or other valuable items inside. It may not be foolproof, but again—it lets burglars know you’ve thought through what they’re looking for, and aren’t going to make it easy for them to find what they want.
Make sure to catalogue your belongings (and let thieves know you’ve done this)
Make a list—complete with serial numbers—of anything you have to leave at the cottage, then post a note saying you’ve done exactly that. While it isn’t always possible to recover stolen property, items are easier to trace if the police know what they’re looking for. Plus, having a list of the contents of your cottage will make dealing with your insurance company easier.
Move your boats and watercraft
Don’t leave boats close to the water (or, worse, on top of the dock!). Make sure any watercraft isn’t easy to get back in the water, and consider removing part of the motor to make sure your boat isn’t easily taken.
Consider engaging an alarm company
If you’re in an area where there have been many break-ins, consider paying for professional monitoring by a security company. While a remote location may make an alarm somewhat less effective, having the system may be enough to deter a thief who’s looking for an easy hit.
Limit access to the property
If your cottage has road access, consider putting a gate across your drive while you’re not there. Anything that slows a thief down will deter them from targeting your property, and a gate can be an easy barrier.