Many of our readers own vacation properties, which they leave empty and unsupervised for weeks or months at a time. Here are some hints on protecting your property, both for short- and long-term absences.

1. A residence which presents a ‘lived-in’ appearance is a deterrent to burglars. Never leave notes that can inform a burglar that your house is unoccupied. Make certain all windows and doors are secured before departing. An empty garage advertises your absence, so close the doors.

2. When going out at night, leave one or more interior lights on and perhaps have a radio playing (TV sets should not be left unattended). Timers may be purchased that will turn lights on and off during your absence. This is a good idea not just for a night out, but for extended stays away.

3. Do not leave door keys under flower pots or doormats, inside an unlocked mailbox, over the doorway, or in other obvious places.

4. Discontinue milk, newspaper, and other deliveries by phone or in person before you leave. Arrange for lawn or landscaping care to be continued, and have someone remove advertising circulars and other debris regularly. Toys or yard tools scattered about will create an impression of occupancy.

5. Notify the post office to hold or forward your mail, or have a trustworthy person pick it up regularly. Stuffed mail boxes are a give away that no one is home, in either condo buildings or detached homes.

6. Inform neighbors of your absence so they can be extra alert for suspicious persons. If you feel comfortable asking, leave a key with them so they can periodically inspect your home. If not your neighbors, ask a friend to stop by every now and then. Ask them to vary the positions of your shades and blinds, and turn on different lights inside.

7. When you leave, do not publicize your plans. Some burglars specialize in reading newspaper accounts of other people’s vacation activities. This include blogging or posting on your social networks that you are leaving.

8. If you find a door or window has been forced or broken while you were away, do not enter. The criminal may still be inside. Use a neighbour’s phone immediately to summon police.

9. Do not touch anything or clean up if a crime has occurred. Preserve the scene until police inspect for evidence.

10. Always Remember to:
*Lock before you leave
*Trust a neighbour or friend with a key
*Be a concerned neighbour and watch out for others.

None of us wants to invite crime, so just take a few precautions and you may prevent a break-in.