How to Secure your Auckland home in 2023: The Ultimate Guide
Crime rates are up. Ram raids are constantly in the news. Amongst the coming recession people may get desperate and resort to criminal means. Clearly there is a lot to worry about especially for property owners in Auckland and even New Zealand as a whole.
This article is a long read but it is very thorough and covers all your bases when it comes to protecting your home and your family. We discuss all methods of safeguarding your property, not just the home security systems we install.
Note: This article is constantly being updated as new ideas and methods come into play.
Understanding the burglar gaze
Before jumping straight into defensive measures to protect your home, it is important to understand why people break into homes, and what makes them consider a target. If you can get into the mindset of a burglar, you can look at your property from a burglar’s point of view. Enabling you to see weak points or signs indicating an easy bounty and a simple getaway.
With this in mind you will understand the measures we discuss in a deeper perspective and see how it can apply to your own home.
Easy access targets, low effort entry and exit
One of the most important features that attract burglars is the ease of breaking into, and getting away from a place. Here are some common signs that a property may be easier to burgle:
- Open doors or windows
- Empty driveway
- Old window and doorframes
- Cheap windows and doors
- Low visibility (very tall privacy hedges or fences)
- Vacant house (filled up mailbox, unmowed lawn, etc)
- Loose/old garage door
If you can spot an easy way to get in and out of your house fast, an experienced burglar will too. Think about where they can pry open a door, break or open a window, or any other entry points. Are there bushes in front of the window, blocking access? Are the window frames so old you can basically pull them out without even breaking the glass?
High reward, easy bounty
Ease of access is just one side of the game for a burglar. The other side is a house worth stealing from – high value items must be present. It’s extremely easy to “break into” an abandoned building full of graffiti and wall rot, but what’s the point?
The property burglars target will have items they can easily thieve and sell. Signs of a wealthy property are pretty straight forward, but sometimes you can stand out amongst your neighbours with even more obvious signs:
- Rubbish from expensive packaging such as TVs and computers
- Sheds/garage workshops well equipped with high quality tools
- Expensive sports gear like high end bicycles, kayaks, surf boards, etc
- Valuables in plain sight: can you expensive items easily through your windows?
- Luxury cars and very neat landscaping
Step 1: Making your property harder to access
To make your home less appealing for potential burglars, you can take action to make sure it looks more difficult to break into. You can do this with a wide variety of home alterations and improvements.
Modern and secure Garage doors
Your garage is a storage space for your cars, your sports gear, tools, and much more. It is also a conduit into the rest of your house.
Make sure your door is not possible to open from the outside without a key/remote. If you live in a particularly dangerous neighbourhood, or you want the best security, install a lock on your garage door. Whether traditional key operated, or a digital smart lock, this will not only be a deterrent for burglars but straight up a hard to overcome obstacle.
If your door needs some urgent maintenance or replacement, get on to it as soon as possible. An older rusty and loose garage door can basically be pried open with simple blunt tools.
Quality Doors with deadbolts and strong locks
The door is one of the first places a burglar will try to access. Ideally for your door to be as intruder-proof and secure as possible, it should have:
- No glass close to the door handle (so it can’t be unlocked from inside)
- Any pet flaps far away from the door handle
- Quality lock with a deadbolt, not a spring bolt
Even though a front door may seem like a very conspicuous place for a burglar to approach, if there is good privacy from outside it’s just as big a target as any window.
Picking or forcing a poor quality lock will attract a lot less attention than breaking a window, or climbing through one.
Given that almost all backdoors are largely glass, they are obviously a lot more vulnerable. However many intruders will still prefer not to break glass as it attracts attention and has a distinct sound. So it is still important for your home security to equip your backdoors with high quality deadbolts too, not just the front.
Window locks and Security bars
Just as with doors, windows need to be locked too. The handles of many windows aren’t necessarily designed to keep out the force of intruders pulling or pushing on them. Rather just to keep out the elements like strong winds.
Additionally to window locks, you can opt for security bars in your windows. These may not be so stylish, especially if no one in the neighbourhood has them. However you should strongly consider them nonetheless especially for less visible windows, because:
- These windows won’t be seen as often by guests/neighbours
- These windows are the ones intruders will prefer to target, drawing less attention
Property Fencing and Gates
A fence is a time tested obstacle to any thief or intruder onto your property. In the past castles had walls, now homes have fences. Especially when coupled with a manual or an automatic gate, this creates an unbroken wall around the perimeter of your property, making access a lot harder.
With a full-length fence and gate, any would-be burglar has to climb over the fence to access your property. This slows them down considerably, as well as draws attention. A person climbing a fence is an automatic alarm bell to anyone watching, be it via CCTV or in person.
However with fences there is a catch. If you don’t have a gate, a fence can actually serve the intruder by acting as a privacy shield while they carry out their criminal actions. In that case it is better to get a see through fence, such as metal bars, rather than a full-height fully opaque wall.
Step 2: Means to deter intruders from attempting a break in
All the physical obstacles listed earlier are also deterrents in their own right, but here we will list methods of deterring a burglar that aren’t necessary a physical block.
These methods are more of a psychological deterrent implying that there is a higher chance the intruder will get caught in the act. Rather than simply slowing them down or hindering their access to the property.
Additionally some of these ideas are focused on decreasing the potential value of the property to a burglar.
Use Timed lights inside your home
It is fairly easy to install timers on lamps in any room in the house. You can use a manual analogue timer like this one to make it look like the house has some activity even when its truly vacant. There are several ways to go about this.
Normal lights on time
Usually people will turn the lights in their house on around sunset and keep them on till they go to sleep. If you know you will be away from home for a few days, you can set up some lamps to run on the same schedule.
- Turning on at sunset – 4PM in winter, 8 PM in summer (if you are in Auckland)
- Turning off at bed time, around 10-11PM
- Turning on before sunrise around 5-6AM, turning off around 9AM
Intermittent light activity
Another technique is to time the lights to work in short bursts. Simulating you walking into a room for a short time, like a bathroom or your garage. Scatter some short on-periods in rooms you don’t frequent often during the evening.
Install Motion Sensor lights outside your house
Most houses will have a motion detection light close by the front door. It doesn’t hurt to add some more around the sides and back of the house. Their purpose is two-fold:
- Let the intruder know that at least on some level they’ve been detected
- Attract attention to them by the light suddenly turning on at night
Overall, motion detection lights are a very simple but an effective deterrent against burglars for home security.
Keep your lawn mowed and garden tidy
One extremely appealing factor to break into a house is knowing that the owners are away on holiday or just out of town. A simple way to tell this is if your hedges, bushes, and grass are growing a little wild and untrimmed.
If you will be away from your home for an extended time, you should arrange for a landscaper or even a neighbour to mow your lawn in the middle of the day. As well as trim any hedges or bushes, and pick up any dropped fruits/flowers. If it’s a trusted neighbour, it will be better to give them your keys and let them use your own equipment from your shed/garage. This will create the impression that someone is still at the property.
Trimming Bushes and Hedges
Large plants deserve a special mention here. Big bushes and hedges can be used by intruders for cover if they’ve raised suspicion. Or they simply cover view of a vulnerable window/door. For these reasons you should keep your bushes, trees, and hedges trimmed neatly.
Clear your mailbox and don’t let packages linger
The same concept as an overgrown lawn – a full mailbox indicates that no one has been at the house for a while. Arrange with your neighbours or friends for them to periodically empty your mailbox.
Again, this gives the impression that the property isn’t vacant.
Same applies to any packages you are receiving. If you have a tracking number and you know it will arrive soon, get someone to pick it up for you. Not only are stale packages a sign that no one is home, but they are an extremely easy target for thieves in their own right.
Keep a loud guard dog
This is a controversial deterrent and personally we would not risk our dogs in case a burglar is very determined. However dogs have been used as property guardians for centuries so they are definitely worth mentioning.
A dog is a very good deterrent as they are basically a biological security system. Dogs have excellent hearing and intuition, so they can detect an intruder straight away. Even before they’ve climbed a fence or walked onto your property, dogs will often start barking.
The bark of a guard dog is just like an alarm siren. It attracts attention, especially if its in the middle of the night or out of the sudden for no reason. Most suburbs in Auckland don’t have dogs barking round the clock so their sudden outbursts will be noticed.
Extended periods of absence
If you are leaving your house for a while, like a holiday, and you are leaving your dog behind, make sure you take all the right provisions to ensure they are fed, sheltered, and cared for.
You will most likely need to arrange with a friend or a neighbour to regularly visit and check up on them as well as feed them. Do not leave your dog at home without making sure their welfare is guaranteed.
Neighbourhood watch programs
Although the concept may not seem that strong, neighbourhood watch schemes are still effective. In the UK, it was found that neighbourhood watches reduce crime by 16-26%. Even the neighbourhood watch sticker/label may be enough of a deterrent as it can cause the criminal to pause and think twice.
Home security/CCTV Surveillance stickers and labels
Whilst Home Security, CCTV, and Alarm systems have their own section just below, it is quickly worth mentioning the psychological impact of the idea of CCTV. Many homes and businesses have had success by planting signs such as “24/7 CCTV Surveillance” or “This property is CCTV monitored”.
Even if there is no active system, the sign alone can cause many burglars to cross your house off their list. For many intruders it’s not worth finding out the truth.
Home Security Systems & CCTV: Deterrent and Active Response
This article would not be complete without arguably the best deterrent you can get in New Zealand. In the USA you can protect your property with armed guards but here in Auckland this isn’t possible. The next best thing is a well designed and installed home security system integrating CCTV cameras and alarm sensors.
CCTV cameras are not only very strong deterrents but with the advent of remote monitoring capabilities they are also an active response measure.
Deterrent effect of Cameras and Alarms
The visual presence of security cameras and alarms acts as a strong psychological deterrent. In a survey of inmates in the USA, it was found that Cameras/Surveillance would deter 43% of attempts, and Alarms as many as 46%. Keep in mind these are already convicted felons who got caught, and doesn’t include the majority of burglars who are even more risk-averse.
CCTV Security Cameras
While a camera can’t physically restrain an intruder from accessing a property, it is a reminder that your home is under surveillance and all actions are recorded. Security footage serves several purposes including:
- Identifying the intruder
- Solid evidence of your items missing due to burglary
- Identifying weak spots in your home security
Cameras will help police catch residential criminals faster especially if your neighbours also have them. They are used to put together a comprehensive suspect description, providing clear pictures of the suspect’s facial features, their physicality, clothes they are wearing, and even what car they are driving.
By increasing the risk of a burglar being caught, CCTV cameras as a powerful deterrent against burglary.
Alarm Systems with Sensors
An Alarm system is another layer of deterrence, which can work wonders when combined with security cameras. A loud alarm (a siren) is a psychologically frightening device which tells the intruder in no uncertain terms that their break in has been detected.
A silent alarm works in a different fashion to serve a different purpose. Some people may not opt for sirens as the effect can actually cause the burglar to cause more damage as they panic and scurry to take things and leave as fast as possible. Silent alarms send a notification to you, your security company, or police to go check out your house.
Alarm systems can employ many different types of sensors, and in fact work the best when used with a variety of sensors such as:
Remote monitoring turns Security Systems into an active response weapon
Older camera systems running on analogue controllers and no network connection meant CCTV could only be used as a deterrent, and evidence used only after the fact. The massive growth of the internet and network capabilities mean you can now access security camera footage remotely in real time.
By integrating remote monitored cameras with alarm sensors, or simply using the motion detection function that most modern CCTV cameras have built-in, you turn your home security system into an advanced crime fighting machine:
- Alarm notification is received
- You or a 3rd party loads your camera feed
- An intruder’s presence is confirmed
- Law enforcement is called out
This process can happen in under 30 seconds. During a burglary, every minute wasted is extremely costly. An extra minute can mean several thousands of dollars of loss. Especially if the burglar can make a successful getaway.
Remote monitoring gives you lightning fast response time so police have the option of catching the burglar in the act.
24/7 Security Monitoring companies
You may not want to, or may not be able to check on your cameras at all times. Maybe you are sleeping away from home. You could be on holiday in a different time zone on a jet ski. Or you are simply in a meeting at work – by the time it’s finished the burglary is done too.
This is where security monitoring service companies come into the picture. There are many such companies who offer 24/7 surveillance of your systems. The alarm notifications get sent to them, and they are able to check your camera feed straight away, and make the call to the police once a burglar is confirmed.
Conclusion: Securing your Auckland home
By employing any of the methods in this article you improve your property’s security and lower the risk of burglary. If you use all of them you will have one of the best protected homes in New Zealand.
If you combine an automatic gate system and full perimeter fence with a high quality home security system employing remote monitored CCTV cameras, you have built an incredibly strong defence for your family and your belongings.