Homes that are not properly protected, or left empty for a while, are an open invitation to opportunists. The contents most sought after are cash, electronic equipment – especially computers – gold and other metal items. Here’s how to stay safe.

1 Making your home safe
Protecting your home against burglaries does not mean turning it into a fortress. The key guidelines should be that the protection should reflect the risk and should be cost effective. Remember, security is only as good as the weakest point, so there is no point having a top-quality front door with security locks if the rear door is made of aluminium with a standard lock. Physical security should always be matched by common sense security practices.

2 Installing a security alarm
It is advisable, especially in the more rural areas, to install a security alarm using a reputable 24-hour monitoring and response company. It is best to obtain at least two quotations and to draw up a list of points they need to know before recommending a particular system. There are many discounted off-the-shelf systems available, but one size does not fit all. Having an alarm installed and without taking into account that you have two large dogs, may result in false alarms. Also, be aware that if you have CCTV installed it is against the law to use this to cover approach roads or public areas.

3 Install a Safe
Install and use a good quality safe and keep valuables out of view from windows. The safe needs to be well secured to a wall or floor.

4 Check your house is secure before leaving
In terms of opportunist property crime, the most frequent means of access is through open windows when the property is unoccupied. The simple message here is to spend five minutes before going out checking that windows and doors are closed and locked, lights are switched on at night time, and cars locked if kept in a driveway or open car port.

5 When you are away
It is important to create the impression that a property is occupied when in fact it is not. Use timers on lights and even radios, set to activate at variable times. If the house is unoccupied over a longer period, then register it as an empty property though the GNR or PSP websites or by visiting your local police station and completing a simple pro-forma. A neighbour visiting your home two to three times a week, drawing curtains and moving a car in a driveway, helps create a ‘lived in’ impression’.

6 Social media
If you are going to be absent for a time, do not advertise the fact on social media. Posting holiday snaps to the world is a giveaway. Even in Facebook groups there are those who monitor sites to check for opportunities when a property may be vacant. Related to this is posting your personal details on social media. I recall a person in the Algarve who displayed his driving licence on Facebook – an open invitation for identity theft.

7 Discarding packaging
Purchasing a new TV or laptop? Take care when disposing of the packaging especially at the rubbish bins, that no receipts are left inside and your name and address is not visible on the parcel.

8 Post boxes
If you are away for some time, ensure that mail does not build up in your post box. This is a sure sign that your property is unoccupied. Ask a neighbour or friend to collect mail regularly for you.

9 Secure gardens
Do not neglect your garden – increasing hours of darkness means increased crime opportunities. Ensure tools or bikes are locked in an outbuilding if possible. Keep swimming pool pump rooms locked as water pumps are sought-after items. If you are going away, ensure that the lock on your garden gate works – using a chain and key is a sure sign that the property is unoccupied.

10 From fires to floods
Now is a good time to plan ahead for the next rural fire season and to start preparing your land. If you are planting small trees or shrubs ensure these are not in a place where they could pose a fire risk to your property – these will grow, so think ahead.

We have experienced a very dry spell, in some places months without rain. When it does come, the effects can be severe, with heavy rain falling on hardened ground, coupled with high winds causing floods and damage to property.

Now is a good time to prepare by clearing rainwater drainage systems and removing aggregates and other objects that can create obstacles to the free flow of water. Check that loose structures such as scaffolding and placards, are properly secured. Also check the condition of trees near your home which could fall, and lastly the property itself, especially roof tiles and chimneys.

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Advice: Safe Communities Portugal

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