Wherever you live in the world, burglary happens. Having your home broken into might not only mean the loss of valuable and irreplaceable items but it is an upsetting experience too. That said, not everyone takes the precautions they need to. If you’ve bought a property in another country you may not even know what these are.

For example, shortly after purchasing our bungalow in Spain, we returned from the beach one day to discover that burglars had entered the house through the roof. We had a corrugated iron ‘galleria’ which, we learnt the hard way, was far from secure. Since then it has been covered over and there have been no further problems, but it was a sharp reminder that every property has its Achilles heel.

Perhaps what we also needed was some local knowledge. We discovered later that every other property in the street had already had their galleria secured. We hadn’t seen the risk, but those living locally knew what the weaknesses of these dwellings were.

You will tend to find that although burglary is common to most countries there are different types that tend to happen more often in some than others. Knowing what these are and where they might occur provides some additional, useful, local knowledge.

Spain’s record on crime

Overall, with the exception of robbery, Spain does well in international comparisons. In fact it is one of the European countries with the lowest crime rate. This is particularly the case when it comes to more serious crimes like murder, rape and assault. Even in relation to burglary, Spain comes quite low down on the list. Of course, you have to keep in mind that different countries collect and report statistics in different ways.

So, the statistics suggest we shouldn’t worry about our home being burgled in Spain any more than we would in our home country. But whatever a country’s crime statistics you should never be complacent. After all, you wouldn’t want to add to them.

Houses that are holiday homes can be particularly vulnerable and there are some basic measures that you should take to ensure that burglary isn’t going to spoil your experience of Spain.

Ten home safety measures to take

We could have easily included more than 10 here. However, just to get you going, think carefully about our list and check off those that you have/ haven’t put in place:

 

Safety measure Yes/ no
1. Locks changed following purchase
2. Locks on external doors or a separate, additional grill
3. Metal grills on windows and patio doors
4. Belongings well-insured
5. Valuables kept out of view
6. Small safe used for very valuable items
7. Someone to check on property at intervals
8. An alarm system
9. Outside lighting – ideally, automatically triggered
10. Timed switches for internal lights and radios.

 

Some houses are located within a community which has its own safety precautions such as security guards and cameras. Of course, this can be beneficial. However, you must ward against complacency. No system is foolproof and you should be careful to ensure that you still apply your own safety measures.

The beautiful weather in Spain does have its disadvantages. A significant number of burglaries take place when owners have left doors or windows open for ventilation or are outside enjoying the sun in another part of the property. Do make sure that you secure your front door if you are sunbathing at the back, for example. Walk-in opportunist theft is not uncommon here.

A word about alarms

Having a security alarm fitted gives you an extra deterrent and may reduce your insurance premium. They generally operate with a coded keypad and should cover all external windows and doors. If you prefer not to have to remember yet another code, some companies are offering the option of ‘intelligent keys’ which will activate and deactivate the alarm for you.

Different security firms usually have quite a range of packages and options available and you will need to negotiate the one that’s best for you. Beware of gimmicks you won’t use but make the most of those that fit your lifestyle.

Some security firms provide the option of movement detectors and opportunity to view your house from a computer, mobile or tablet whilst you’re away. Sensors on doors and windows can alert you to unwanted activity and hidden cameras can record images which can help identify intruders and may be useful for the police.

Some systems are linked to a security firm who will investigate if the alarm goes off. Check the details of this. It is likely that they will want to call someone to confirm whether it is a mistake or a genuine burglary. What happens if they can’t reach you? If they ring the police instead this could incur extra costs.

Common sense

You might have heard the phrase, ‘don’t leave your brains at the airport’. It might be overused but that’s because it’s true. There can be a tendency for people visiting and living in another country to suspend all the good practice and common sense they would apply at home.

Don’t be caught out. Just because you’re on holiday or retired, doesn’t mean that the local burglars are too.

1Comparisons of Crime in OECD Countries

http://www.civitas.org.uk/crime/crime_stats_oecdjan2012.pdf