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How to protect yourself from burglars

Susanne Loacker

The days are shorter, it gets darker earlier in the evening. Winter is the season for burglaries. What’s the best way to protect yourself from uninvited visitors? We give you nine tips here.

A modern cubic house with lights on the second floor. The surroundings are very dark, except for the illuminated forecourt.
© Getty Images/iStockphoto

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One burglary every eleven minutes

The fear of burglars is justified on the one hand by the fact that, according to the 2019 burglary statistics, a burglary or break-in is committed in Switzerland every eleven minutes. On the other hand, the number of burglaries in Switzerland has fallen in recent years, not least because there are now more cases of cybercrime. Just a few years ago, the frequency was every eight minutes.

But even so, nobody wants someone sneaking around in their house when they’re not at home. Even fewer people want to be surprised by a burglar at night.

The most important tips for protection against burglars

Investigators can recognize patterns from both solved and unsolved cases and give house and apartment residents some important tips.

1. Windows

People are often afraid that a burglar will use some sort of tool to cut a hole in a window and gain entry to the house. However, hardly any burglars have this type of professional tool with them – and nowadays virtually all windows are double glazed at the very least.

Lowering the blinds overnight is never a bad idea, but it prevents only a fraction of break-ins. Tilted windows, on the other hand, are a problem even during the day because a burglar can open them in seconds. When you leave the house, you shouldn’t leave any windows tilted open, especially near the ground.

2. Doors

The danger of a burglar gaining access through inadequately secured doors is often underestimated, however. We lock the door when we set off for work, but if we quickly take some milk to the neighbor and end up staying for a coffee, we often leave the balcony door wide open.

According to the professionals, opportunity makes thieves. Before a burglar smashes your windows, they will always prefer to go one house further along to see if a door has been left open. Exceptions are burglaries when a thief wants to get into a particular house because they knows there is something very specific to steal from it.

An outside door leading to the interior of a house is standing wide open.

People often leave the balcony or patio door open without thinking.

3. Alarm systems

Strangely enough, according to the professionals, alarm systems are only useful if they are clearly visible from the outside. This way they have a preventive effect. Once an alarm has been triggered, the door will already have been broken open and, depending on the time of day, the thieves may already be far away with their loot before anyone arrives to check what’s happening.

4. Lights

Leaving the lights on is a good idea. Turning lights on in various locations and at different times of day is even better – for example, using timers or controlling them as part of a smart home system. Motion detectors outside are useful – but not if your garden is surrounded by a high hedge. Then the burglar has both visual protection from neighbors and a light to help him see what they’re doing.

5. The neighbors

Of course, we don’t want everyone to suddenly turn into policemen and deputy sheriffs. But a little neighborhood watch is always a good thing. If you see someone you don’t know, greet them politely and ask who or what they’re looking for. Professionals say that this is a very effective method of burglary prevention.

6. Caution

Burglars are neither nice nor fair. They are out to trick you. By any means. Professionals report on groups of criminals who have a pregnant woman working for them, or even children, for instance. A common technique is for a pregnant woman to ring the doorbell and ask for a glass of water because she feels sick. Of course, you immediately go to the kitchen to fetch her a drink. Meanwhile, you leave the door open and the rest of the gang can enter the house. So what should you do if you don’t want to risk not helping someone who is genuinely in need? Politely explain that you’re going to close the door briefly while you fetch them a glass of water.

7. Dogs

Especially people who live alone often think about getting a dog so they won’t be alone in the house. This is a good idea, first and foremost because an animal will give you a lot of love as well as security. However, you should remember that statistically speaking, most burglaries occur when people are not at home. And that often means the dogs are out with them.

A white dog lies on a wooden floor.

A dog only helps to guard the house while it’s at home. But a dog is a very sweet animal to have around in any case.

8. The basement

Many people secure their house carefully all around, but forget the basement, which often has old windows – that are permanently kept tilted open. It is also common for basement doors to be insufficiently protected. A little more security would generally be very useful: more than half of all burglaries in Switzerland occur with no other tool than a screwdriver.

9. Presence

If there is actually a burglar in the house, the first reflex is to hide under the bed or in the nearest closet. Professionals advise against this. Draw attention to yourself, turn the volume up on the radio, switch to YouTube on your computer. Most people can’t scream on command. A small, shrill alarm or whistle on the bedside table can therefore have a very reassuring effect.

Conclusion: you can do a lot to protect yourself

There’s no such thing as absolute protection against burglars – or total security. But there are a number of things you can do to send a message to burglars: this isn’t the right place to try. More information on the frequency of crimes, broken down by offense or canton, is available from the Federal Statistical Office.

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