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How to lock out crime – home security 101

Posted by Milana Cizmar on July 26, 2012

If you are like most Canadians, you are concerned about the safety of your home and your community. One particular type of crime that worries Canadians is breaking and entering, or burglary. Recent statistics show that burglary accounts for 22 per cent of all property crime. In Canada, a residential burglary takes place every three minutes.

The How To Lock Out Crime series, jointly prepared by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), will make you more aware of burglary and its dynamics and show you how to minimize the likelihood that this crime will happen to you.

The How to Lock Out Crime series promotes a proactive approach to safety and security. By knowing the conditions favourable to burglars and taking steps to eliminate those conditions, you can greatly reduce the chances that your home will be burgled. Being proactive and implementing a well-thought-out plan can:

  • significantly reduce the opportunity for a crime to be committed; and
  • minimize the consequences both personal and property damages — if a crime does occur.


Part I:

A planned approach is needed for good overall security.

Victims of home burglary typically find the experience more than just a physical loss. They find it traumatic, disturbing and intimidating. Many are unsettled for weeks afterward, and have a feeling of being personally violated. Predictably, residential burglary happens more frequently in households where crime prevention measures have not been taken. Without making your home a fortress, it is relatively easy to take effective precautions.

Tackling home security need not be overwhelming. The key is to adopt a problem-solving approach: analyze, implement and evaluate. This fact sheet will:

  • help you recognize the basic security risks that exist in and around your home — analysis.
  • provide ideas, alternatives and solutions so you can take appropriate steps to eliminate the risks — implementation.
  • aid you in assessing the improvements — evaluation.

Never leave your home unlocked even for a few minutes, even while at home.

Keep in mind that no security system is 100 per cent effective. The methods outlined here will not always discourage a professional burglar from breaking into your home. But they will, in most instances, persuade an amateur — who is by far the most frequent offender — to look for an easier target. Remember: If you have locks and alarms — use them.

Knowing Your Adversary

Over 80 per cent of home burglaries occur in daylight. These crimes are most often committed by young men between 16 and 25 years of age. Most burglaries occur on weekdays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., when residences are most likely to be unoccupied.

Amateur burglars are opportunists. They do not choose victims randomly. Rather, they look for opportunities — houses that can be approached without neighbours seeing or hearing anything; a door left ajar; or a window propped open for ventilation. Some burglars cruise a neighbourhood, working by day or night, looking for a house that seems unoccupied. If no one responds to the doorbell, they will examine the house more closely. They may test the doors and locks; note the location and type of windows; look for alarms; and so on.

The Ins and Outs of Burglary

Amateur burglary is not a sophisticated crime. To gain access to a dwelling, amateurs do not rely on deception or skill, but on concealment, speed and force. In the majority of break-ins, burglars enter the house from a door or window located in the basement or on the ground floor. However, second-floor break-ins have increased significantly in the last few years. Once inside, they steal indiscriminately, taking anything that might be valuable and can be easily carried. Burglars work quickly, often demonstrating an uncanny ability to locate hidden valuables. The average cost of goods stolen during a residential burglary is well over $3,000.

Consumer electronics — TVs, digital cameras, computers, laptops and so on — head the list of most popular stolen items. Cash, jewelry and liquor are also “hot” items.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Many of the How To Lock Out Crime suggestions are based on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles. CPTED (pronounced SEP-TED) was developed in response to studies indicating that some residential designs may be more effective than others in ensuring overall community security.

Circular arrangement of homes in a cul-de-sac permits informal surveillance by neighbours.

For example, houses located on dead-end streets attract fewer thieves and vandals than those located on busy thoroughfares or streets laid out in a grid pattern. The limited access to dead-end streets and culde-sacs reduces the likelihood of strangers entering and leaving undetected. In a cul-de-sac, all houses face one another, providing more opportunity for informal surveillance by neighbours.

More and more developers are including the following amenities and services in their designs: fenced children’s play areas in locations where parents can watch them; recreational and open spaces that are clearly defined as semi-private; and suitable, designated places for teenagers to gather. Such amenities are important. Not only do they contribute to better quality of life, but they promote a sense of pride and ownership that acts as a “natural check” on anti-social behaviour.

Houses are increasingly being provided with fenced yards. In addition to giving residents more privacy, the fence delineates property lines, conveying the message that “this is private property.”

Proper use of landscaping and lighting can be key factors in limiting and monitoring access — in all neighbourhoods.

Currently in a number of Canadian communities, police, designers, planners and municipal officials are working with developers and residents to implement CPTED in new and existing neighbourhoods. Your local police can help you identify problems, offer suggestions for changes, and help set up community-based responses to implement the changes.

Content Provided by CMHC: For further information please visit

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