The complete guide: Break-in + theft prevention

Updated September 6, 2022

The value of the goods stolen in a break-in has gone up – hardly a surprise, with the number of computers and portable electronic items we all own.

Break-ins can also have devastating effects on the individuals and familes that have been robbed. Leaving them feeling violated and a loss of sense of safety.

A thief breaking in

Conduct a home security audit

In the summer, break-ins are more common, as there is simply more opportunity. Every other home on a street may be empty over a long weekend, making it easy for thieves to target their activities. While monitored alarm systems are a definite detriment, keep in mind that a thief can generally grab what he is interested in long before the police arrive. Here are a few simple tips that can make your home a lot less appealing:

However, when a burglar targets your home, suddenly theft doesn’t look quite so irresistible. Instead, there’s a sense of violation, of loss, of fear as you imagine someone in your personal space, rifling through your drawers and searching your closets. There’s also the determination to ensure that it never happens again.

Whether or not your home has ever been robbed, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old saying goes. One way to prevent it is by conducting a home security audit. Whether you do it yourself or ask for help from a professional, an audit will point out the weaknesses in your home’s defenses and allow you to sleep more soundly at night – especially on those nights when you’re home alone.

In some Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa, the police offer courtesy home security audits as a public service. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of these locales, don’t delay. Pick up the phone and schedule an audit now. If not, you can hire a security professional to do an audit for you, or you can undertake the task yourself. If you choose the latter route, here is some handy advice.

Home Security Blindspots – Bushes and Fences

Black steel gate of a home

Start your audit by walking the perimeter of your home, assessing it through a burglar’s eyes. Look at the landscaping first, because bushes, shrubs and fences are ideal for providing cover. Ensure that they are properly trimmed so that doors and windows aren’t hidden from view. If you’re concerned about privacy, drapes, blinds and curtains will do the trick.

Evaluate your fencing material and height. Tall fences provide privacy, but they also prevent you from making the acquaintance of neighbors who might keep an eye on your house. Solid fences can also shelter thieves, so try to balance privacy with security.

Home Security Doors

Large brown door to a home

Shut the door on burglary by keeping your home secure. Install good, solid doors and make sure that any windows they contain are out of the reach of the door locks. If your door doesn’t have a window, insert a peephole so that you can see who is ringing the bell before answering.

If your home has exterior sliding glass doors, there is a danger that a burglar can simply lift the doors off the frame to enter. You can prevent such an occurrence by:

  • Inserting a piece of wood or a hockey stick into the frame to prevent the door from sliding open;
  • Attaching a pin lock to the door that goes into the frame; or
  • Fastening screws into the track above the door when it’s closed.

Good locks should be paired with your solid doors. Place deadbolt locks on all doors that have outside access. The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services suggests locks with the following characteristics:

  • pick-resistant
  • drill-resistant
  • saw resistant
  • twist-resistant, with tapered hardened steel, or free spinning cylinder guard
  • minimum of 2.5 cm (1 inch) long when thrown
  • interlocking bolts should be a minimum of 5.6 cm (2 1/4 inches).

In addition, don’t get deadbolts that require keys on both sides because they won’t allow for a quick exit in case of fire.

Technology also makes locking and unlocking easier for homeowners; smart locks can be unlocked using your smartphone as a key. You can also invest in a digital monitoring system for your doors so you can see who is ringing the bell whether or not you are home.

Watch your windows

Windows are additional points of entry for burglars, so make sure they’re not easy to open when you’re not home. Secure sliding windows with a piece of wood in the same way you’d secure sliding glass doors. Double hung windows can be forced open by putting pressure on the lock, so add a second lock or install a metal security pin that prevents the window from being opened.

How to find the right home alarm system

When it comes to home security, there are places where property crimes are high and locales where there isn’t much crime at all.

Whether you live in an area that is formally designated safe or not, undoubtedly, feeling secure in your own home is important, and knowing that your home is safe from intruders is equally valuable. To ensure that your property remains safe, you may want to consider installing a home alarm system.

Outdoor Security Lighting

Lighting is also very important in fending off burglars. Homes that look lived in from day to day provide better safety and security than others. The interior of your home should have two lights on each evening during the hours you are awake; if you’re on vacation, put those lights on a timer. Outdoors, motion-sensitive lights are an excellent deterrent, both because they illuminate people moving outside and they indicate to potential intruders that you are security conscious.

For a little extra info on choosing the best outdoor security lighting, check out this video from LifeHackster.

Why a Home Alarm System?

Home security system parts with a computer tablet

Home alarm systems are useful, both as a deterrent and for peace of mind. In many cases, the simple presence of an alarm system is enough to warn off a burglar.

The stickers denoting that the premises are monitored do work their magic, and if they aren’t enough, hearing an alarm go off should scare a thief away. Why risk getting caught when there are easier targets?

Home alarm systems also offer you the comfort of knowing that someone is on the lookout for the vulnerable members of the family: the elderly or children who come home to an empty house after school.

Realizing that help is at hand for them in the instance of a break-in attempt will make you breath easier. You can also leave for a vacation knowing that, in addition to your neighbors, someone is keeping an eye – or a sensor – on your property.

In addition, you may see a reduction in your homeowner’s insurance rate if your property is protected, and, these days, no one should dismiss the chance to have a few extra dollars in his or her pocket.

How to Choose a Home Alarm System

There are several factors to consider in choosing the right alarm system for your home. The number of different products available can be staggering, but if you make a few key decisions you’ll be able to narrow down the options before you even start. Here are the first choices you’ll need to make when you choose your alarm system:

Wireless or wired?

In today’s increasingly wireless world, cellular technology is the best bet, unless your area doesn’t have adequate coverage. Landline-based systems, while cheaper, will likely be obsolete in a few years, given the advent of wireless technology. You can also choose a cellular system that uses your home internet. Cellular-based systems generally provide coverage even if your power goes out, but ensure that the provider has battery backup available for those situations.

DIY or Installation?

Yes, indeed, you’ll undoubtedly save money by installing the system yourself. Wireless systems are usually easy to install and there are company technicians available online or by phone to offer advice if you get stuck. Using a professional to install the system means paying for their time and setting aside the time to be home when they can pay a service call. However, you can be sure they will place any sensors and devices in the optimal locations and will do the job right.

Smarter technology?

Consider whether you want a standalone alarm system or whether you’d like it simply to be a piece of overall home automation technology. These days, smart homes make life easier by allowing your system to adjust the temperature, turn lights on or off and lock or unlock doors, controlling it all from your smartphone. You can start with the basic alarm system and upgrade along the way, or make the leap all at once. Most home alarm systems are compatible with applications such as the Nest or Alexa, too.


You’re making a long-term investment when you install a home alarm system, so be sure you’ll get responsive customer service. Check websites such as Consumer Reports for evaluations of various systems and their features, including service, and call the companies yourself to see how their representatives treat you and how they handle calls.


Money is always a consideration when buying a product or choosing a service. When it comes to home alarm systems, your equation should take into account these five fees:

  • Monthly fees
  • Activation fees
  • Service fees
  • Relocation fees
  • Cancellation fees

For more information on choosing a home alarm system, check out this video from

Home Alarm Purchase Options

You may also want to consider the cost of renting the equipment vs. purchasing it. If you own it, you can reuse it, but leasing it generally offers a lower cost upfront, because it’s included in your monthly fee. In addition, look at the various packages on offer and decide whether you want or need the particular features each one offers.

Whether you live in British Columbia or Ontario, it’s worth considering a home alarm system so that you don’t need to be at home yourself in order to protect property or loved ones.

It only takes 5 minutes

ready for an online quote? Policies start at $12/month if you rent your home and $40/month if you own your home. To see how much you can save with Square One, get a personalized online quote now.

Stop thieves from ruining Christmas

You’re starting your Christmas shopping, and you park at your favourite spot at the mall. Well, guess what? Any thieves hanging out in the area know exactly why you’re there. They’ll be keeping an eye on your car, and if you return with an armload of gifts, put them in the car, and go back for more, they’ll be on your car quicker than you can say “Bah, humbug!”

Shopping safely

Shop safely

As you are walking through shopping malls and stores during the holidays, so are burglars. They are looking for customers who might be easy marks for a theft. Don’t help them succeed!

  • Be conscious. Be aware of your surroundings at all times; don’t hesitate to report anything suspicious to mall or store security.

  • Hang on. Keep hold of your purse and your packages at all times. Leaving them unattended, even for a moment, makes them ripe for snatching.

  • Lights on. Park in well-lit, well-travelled areas to reduce the risk of being mugged or robbed.

  • Use your instincts. If someone looks untrustworthy or a location looks dicey, avoid walking nearby.

Theft prevention tips for items in your car

It would be much better if you could just prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips to deter thieves from stealing your Christmas and holiday gifts:

  • Put your purchases in the trunk of your car, if possible. It’s much harder to break into.

  • If you don’t have a car trunk, keep any parcels hidden, maybe under a blanket. And avoid making trips to your car from the mall, and back again. Even if you’ve hidden the gifts, the thief has seen you put them in the car!

  • Never leave your purse or cell phone lying on the seat while you run in for one last thing. These are visible and tempting. An expert thief can break into a car in seconds.

  • Don’t leave your car running, even if you’re just popping into the local corner store for some milk. Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a car thief to break in, and a running car is very attractive!

  • Park where it’s well lit, with lots of traffic, as opposed to a secluded dark area. Need I say more?

  • Use no-name reusable shopping bags, if they’re going to be visible in the car. If a potential thief sees “Holt Renfrew” or “Apple” on the bags, it’s a definite temptation.

  • Take all your gifts in the house when you get home. Leaving them in the car might keep them safe from your kids, but not from thieves. Maybe you can leave them with your neighbour until you can safely sneak them in the house.

Protect your home from thieves during the holidays

Women talks on the phone in distress during the holidays

Your home is your castle; don’t let it become a grab bag for holiday thieves. Christmas is a time of year when we inadvertently advertise our possessions, but these tips will assist with being careful:

  • Review the outside of your home. Assess your house critically from the outside, trying to see it as a burglar might.

  • Lock them out. Install solid deadbolts to your doors that can withstand break-and-enter attempts. They can also serve as visual deterrents; burglars know they’ll need to work harder to break in and may go on to another house. Additional deterrents include Mag locks, which wrap around your deadbolts, and strike plates, which protect door frames from being pried apart. Be sure to keep doors and windows locked; don’t run extension cords from indoors to your Christmas lights outside.

  • Light up your life. Ensure that the entrances to your home have adequate lighting. Motion lights are triggered anytime someone passes near them, another excellent deterrent for unwanted “visitors.” If you are leaving town for the holidays, or even if you are out most evenings, set your indoor lights on a timer to make it appear as if someone is at home.

  • Don’t leave notes for delivery people or couriers telling them you’re not home. It’s an open invitation to burglars to pay a visit.

  • Hide and lock up ladders. Don’t leave the ladder that you use to attach Christmas lights outside; thieves will be happy to use it to climb into upper-story windows.

  • Enlist help. If you’ll be away from home for the holiday period, ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on the house, collect mail and park a car in your driveway to give your home a lived-in look. Arrange to have your sidewalks and driveway shoveled in the event of a snowfall while you are away.

  • Don’t hide a spare key outside your home. Burglars know all the hiding places. Instead, give a spare key to a trusted friend or neighbor who will be in town when you return from vacation.

  • Document purchases. If you’re buying expensive gifts for others, use your cell phone to snap photos of the items and record their serial numbers. Keep the receipts somewhere safe in case you need to show them to the police.

  • Cardboard confetti. Tear gift boxes into small pieces and stuff them near the bottom of the trash bin. Why advertise all the expensive presents you have just received?

Reading these tips may make you feel gloomy, but don’t worry. If you take these precautions, it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry during the holidays. Remember the old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Don’t allow your holiday to be ruined by a theft that can be prevented. By taking precautions, you can avoid becoming an easy target for thieves.

Summer burglary prevention tips

Statistics show that home break-ins increase during the summer months.

You’re out and about more when the temperatures are warm, so it shouldn’t be surprising that burglars are, too. Why work in the cold when they can work in comfort?

In addition, the greenery that adds so much to the summer landscape also helps provide cover for the thief. Bushy shrubs and blooming trees that obscure windows help hide shady dealings that make be taking place.

Away during summer? A burglar’s preference

Family smiling in a four door car in a driveway

Burglars also like to do their “work” unimpeded, and summer is the season when many people take holidays. Breaking into an empty home means much less risk for the thief.

In fact, you needn’t even be on vacation for a burglar to drop by; break-ins may happen when you are happily gardening in your backyard or visiting a neighbor down the street. An empty home is a tempting home.

When Are Homes Most Likely to Be Broken Into?

In fact, most home break-ins take place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and can be accomplished in as little as 10 minutes. What kinds of properties do burglars prefer?

The New York Times notes that burglars interviewed in prison definitely prefer an unoccupied home. They also want to get in and out quickly; burglars can break in and as noted, get their “work” done within 10 minutes. They are fond of homes with escape routes, so cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets aren’t as likely to be targeted as through streets.

Many homeowners don’t take precautions against break-ins, because they don’t think they own much of value. They forget that a burglar can’t necessarily see into the home to determine whether or not it is worth robbing. It’s important to behave as if your home is a potential target and act accordingly.

Protect your home with these summer theft prevetion tips

Viewing home security system on your smartphone
  • Lock it. Make sure that your windows and doors are securely locked when you leave for a summer vacation. Even when you are out in the backyard weeding, get in the habit of keeping your front door and your garage door locked. Use deadbolts and put locking pins or dowels in sliding glass doors and windows to make entry difficult. Burglars like homes that are easy targets and if you make it difficult to enter yours, they will move on to another target.

  • Get a safety deposit box. Make sure your valuables are stored in a safety deposit box, a home safe that is bolted to the floor or with a family member.

  • Touch base with your insurance agent to be certain that your homeowner’s policy is up to date and that it adequately covers theft of your valuable items.

  • Consider installing a home alarm system and be certain that it is turned on when you leave. Check with your insurance agent; if your home is protected, you might be eligible for a discounted rate.

  • Don’t flaunt your stuff. The general public doesn’t need to know you are away from home, so don’t advertise it. Stop the mail or have a neighbor collect it, as well as any flyers that are delivered. Put your newspaper delivery on hold. You definitely don’t want bank statements and other personal letters sitting in the mailbox for thieves to find; identity theft is another modern crime and one that has more challenging consequences than burglary.

  • Don’t make announcements on Facebook. Don’t use social media to announce to family and friends that you will be away, and don’t post photos of your vacation until you return. Why advertise to someone who is randomly browsing the Internet that your home is ripe for plucking?

  • If you have spare keys hiding under flagstones or in flowerpots, remove them. Thieves know all about these secret locations and will be sure to check them. Why make their “jobs” easier?

  • If your house appears to be occupied, you’ll be less of a target for theft. Put some strategic lights and a radio on timers so that they come on at different times. If you’ll be gone for a long stretch, arrange to have someone cut your lawn. Keep a car parked in the driveway and have some blinds raised to indicate that someone is in residence. If you are away for a long stretch, you may want to have a trusted friend or neighbor stop by occasionally to open the curtains for an hour and check the house physically.

  • Eyes wide open. Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on the house while you’re away and to report any unusual activity to the police.

There’s no reason you can’t enjoy a summer holiday without fear of theft, but you’ll rest easier if you take all of these precautions.

6 year-round tips to prevent break ins and theft

  1. Lock the home up

    Locking windows and doors is the most important thing you can do to stop a break-in. Up to 40% of residential break-ins happen without the use of force. Always lock the deadbolt and make sure that locks on patio and sliding doors are strong enough to withstand kicks. If your garage is attached to your home, lock the door leading to the inside – even if your garage door is down, it’s easy to open.

  2. Keep vacations relatively private

    Don’t inadvertently advertise that you are going to be away on vacation. Telling all your Facebook friends that you are headed off on a three-week trip to Europe may seem like a good idea, at least make sure your profile is somewhat private (or that you haven’t “friended” people you don’t really know).

    When you do leave town, don’t advertise it. Have a friend housesit, or make arrangements for someone to pick up the mail and the flyers. If you are going to be away for more than a few days, think about getting the lawn cut as well (it will make your return a lot less depressing as well).

  3. Get neighbours involved

    Know your neighbours. Whether it’s in the form of neighbourhood watch or the less formal activity of knowing who lives on your floor in your apartment building, if you recognize the people who live around you, you’ll recognize someone who doesn’t fit in. And, likewise, if your neighbours know you, they will notice if someone they don’t know is walking off with all your electronics. Remember, break-ins frequently happen during the day when people are at work.

  4. Avoid hiding keys around the home

    Don’t leave that spare key outside, “hidden”. It’s hardly hidden if someone sees you retrieving it, and it’s a lot smarter to leave a set of keys with a friend or family member who can rescue you in case you lose your keys.

  5. Make it look like someone is home

    Burglars are far less likely to break in if they think someone is home. It’s pretty simple to make it seem like someone is home – leave the music or television on, as well as a light or two.

    If you have a yard, install motion sensitive lights, which will flash on and deter unwanted visitors.

  6. Avoid advertising new home purchases

    When you buy a new flat screen TV, don’t leave the box out in the recycling bin. Otherwise, you are advertising to anyone who looks that there is something new and cool to steal. Likewise, don’t leave the drapes and blinds wide open when you are out to let people see just what wonderful stuff you have.

Burglary in Canada

It’s no secret that Canadians are taking more precautions to protect themselves and their homes by installing alarm systems, having the right home insurance, and utilizing preventative measures to discourage property crime.

Though property crime in most regions of the country is down, a break-in occurs every 90 seconds in Canada. Fortunately, a number of studies have shown that burglary is primarily a crime of opportunity. In other words, we can greatly reduce our risk by taking a common sense approach in prevention.

For a quick overview of home burglary in Canada, as well as prevention tips, check out the infographic below.

Infographic about home burglaries in Canada and prevention tips

Insurance claim considerations

So what if all your stuff gets stolen? You need to put in a claim with your insurance company. And that’s your home insurance, not your car insurance. This is bad for several reasons:

  • It counts as a claim against your home insurance, your premiums may go up at renewal.
  • You have to pay your deductible. The standard deductible these days is $1,000.
  • You have to start shopping all over again. Not only that, but if the thieves have done any damage to your car, that’s another claim with your car insurance company, and another deductible to pay.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.


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Protect your family

Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $12/month.

Learn more