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A behind-the-scenes police operation appears to have worked in terms of significantly reducing the number of burglaries in Canterbury during the holiday season.
Police generally have a fair idea of who the burglars are - proving it and taking them to court can be another matter.
When serial burglars are behind bars, the break-ins tend to drop. But as one long-retired policeman told me once, burglars are like weeds - as soon as you pull one out another pops up in its place.
This operation involved talking to known offenders prior to Christmas about what is happening in their lives as part of a general catch-up. The message, though, would have been very clear: “We are watching you.”
There are many ways a householder can deter burglars over and above the technology now available.
A dog helps. Small snappy ones that bark are often as a good or better deterrent than a large beast.
A number of years ago when someone broke into our house, our 65kg lab/newfoundland appears to have slept through the burglary, just metres from where the offender came in.
It was a sunny day though, and he did like to snooze on the doorstep.
Or he may have been playing dead, which was probably a good thing. He was a big boy, and for anyone who didn’t know him, you’d think twice about approaching.
But he was a gentle giant who avoided confrontation.
The tiny dogs we had when we were kids would have certainly made the ankles of a burglar feel painful - and alerted the neighbours that something was amiss.
Being vigilant is still a major factor in spotting a potential burglar.
The average burglar is not a rocket scientist, and simply will act on opportunity. He or she may need to pay for drugs or settle a debt and will cruise neighbourhoods for that opportunity. And it won’t matter if you are at home. So keep the doors locked.
Years ago, I passed an oncoming car being driven relatively slowly by a woman. A male was in the back, slightly slumped to make him less visible with a cap pulled down.
Not long after, I happened to be at my letterbox and along came the car, the same guy in the back, casing houses. I stood at the letterbox and looked straight at them as they cruised by. They didn’t come back.
Nothing to be afraid of. Burglars don’t like to be spotted.