How to protect your property in the age of COVID-19

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 21 May 2020

Crime is down but you can’t be complacent when it comes to protecting your property.

Crime in Victoria fell to a six-year low during the COVID-19 shutdown but police fear it will be short-lived.

Preliminary figures for April show the lowest daily average number of crimes since 2014, but deputy commissioner Shane Patton says crime is now returning to levels prior to restrictions being put in place.

Assistant commissioner Bob Hill says opportunistic thefts and burglaries are still a risk and he urges home owners and businesses to take simple preventative measures.

Security cameras on side of home


“While most people in our community do the right thing, we know there will be a small number who will use this time to commit offences such as burglaries and vehicle-related crime, including theft of and theft from motor vehicles,” he says.

“This type of offending is often opportunistic with thieves entering homes either through open or unlocked doors and windows to steal items, including car keys. In Australia it is reported that seven out of 10 cars are stolen with the keys.”

He says police will have a highly visible presence in the community and proactively target known burglary hotspots and patrol local areas in an effort to detect, disrupt and apprehend offenders.

“We take this type of offending very seriously and are committed to holding offenders to account.”

Darren Turner, RACV’s general manager Home, says now is not a time to become complacent about security in your home or business.

“Some people working from home are becoming relaxed over security measures,” he says.

“In the past when they went to work, they automatically turned on their alarm system but now some people think they’re just ducking out for essentials like groceries or for five minutes’ exercise and they forget to turn the alarm system on.”

Darren says just because you’re working from home and can see your car in the driveway doesn’t mean you should leave valuables in your car, leave it unlocked or, even worse, leave your keys in the ignition.

He says leaving keys in the ignition effectively gives criminals access to your house while leaving a garage-door remote opener in the car could also give burglars a chance to get into the garage and possibly into your home.

No one is immune from opportunistic theft, says Darren. Australian Test cricket captain Tim Paine is a recent victim. Tim moved his car on to the street while creating a gym in the garage only to find that overnight someone had got into the car and stolen his wallet and had used his credit cards.

Darren says one of the best ways to safeguard your home is to install a CCTV system or intruder alarm, or if you already have a security system, making sure it is working properly.

“An intruder alarm system is your first line of defence and the best systems are back-to-base monitored so that, even if you’re not home, it alerts the monitoring centre that someone has broken in,” Darren says.

“CCTV systems provide live-views of what is happening around your home via a computer or smartphone and you can review footage after an event has occurred, which may help determine what happened and possibly lead to a criminal conviction,” he says.

He says that while visible cameras around your home may deter would-be burglars, CCTV systems are best used in conjunction with an intruder alarm system.

He adds that business owners who have had to close their premises should also consider having intruder alarm systems and CCTV professionally installed to protect their vacant premises.

Neighbourhood Watch Victoria chief executive Bambi Gordon says although it may seem counter-intuitive, business owners shouldn’t pull down all the blinds and shutters on empty premises. 

“Many businesses back on to a laneway and if the front is all closed up, criminals can come in through the back and pick and choose what they want without being seen,” Bambi says. 

“Of course, you must keep precious belongings out of sight [of windows]; you don’t want to tempt a criminal.” 

Bambi suggests installing sensor lights in empty premises so that intruders may think someone is on the premises when they enter. “Criminals are like spiders, they are more scared of us than we are of them,” she says. 

She also warns that if business owners take expensive equipment home they must keep valuable items out of sight and ensure the home is locked. 

Victoria Police tips to deter burglars: 

  • Install an alarm system and/or CCTV. 
  • Install good-quality locks on doors and windows. 
  • Lock all windows and doors; unlocked side and rear doors are the most common entry point for burglars. 
  • Ensure garage doors and internal access entries to the house and backyard are locked. 
  • Lock your home when you enter or leave and place keys out of sight. 
  • Report any suspicious behaviour to police immediately via Triple Zero (000). 

Victoria Police tips to avoid vehicle-related theft: 

  • Lock your car at all times – even when parking at home in the driveway or garage. 
  • Secure your keys and never leave them in your car. 
  • Park in well-lit and secure areas if possible. 
  • Don’t leave valuable items, including tools, in your vehicle. 
  • Tradespeople should lock their vehicles and secure their tools even when they’re on a building site.