Leaving on vacation or locking up your secondary residence? Read on.
By Jeanne McCaul, Lauzerte
Recently some friends of ours were “visited by the movers”. In case you’re wondering: this is the literal translation of a euphemistic French description for a burglary (“visité par les déménageurs”).
This unpleasant event was made even more so, given that the property is a secondary residence and that the friends live in Australia. After spending the summer in the Quercy, and returning home around 2 weeks before the theft, hopping on the first plane to once again cross half the planet was not a realistic option. Meanwhile, in order for any investigation to be opened, someone local had to be given the authority to accompany the police onto the premises and into the buildings and also to lay a formal complaint. In this case this person happened to be me. The experience was quite revealing and hopefully the following information, suggestions and tips will be of help to readers of the Quercy Local.
- Communication is key: be sure to inform your friends and neighbors about your arrival and departure dates, as well as the local Marie and, in particular, the gendarmes. In fact, your local gendarmerie has forms to fill in – even on-line – for this precise purpose. Visit their useful website for full information:
- If informed, the local gendarmerie will undertake to keep an eye on your property. Also: the information on the form allows them to contact you, or someone designated by yourselves, if they notice anything untoward.
- Be aware that no-one, not even the police, may legally enter your property or your home without your consent or the consent of another person legally authorized by yourself. (Obviously, if your house is on fire and your life in danger, this would not apply.) Moreover: the police cannot investigate anything without a formal complaint. This means that even if they know there has been a burglary and even if they have a suspect in mind, they cannot proceed without a complaint having been filed by an authorized person. It follows that if the police become aware of suspicious activity on a given property, but do not know who the owners are or how to reach them, precious time can be lost in the pursuit of justice.
- Be sure to leave a set of keys to the property with the authorized person of your choice.
- If you leave a vehicle on the property, be sure not to leave the keys and the papers on the property as well. Better to hold onto them or leave with a trusted friend or neighbor. If thieves have the papers, selling the vehicle is easy as pie, complicating matters for the police and with the insurance.
- Be sure to take out adequate insurance on your property as well as its contents.
- Be sure to keep an inventory of attractive items and objects in your home as well as invoices for such items as televisions, etc. Photos can also be very useful to the police when they come upon suspected stolen goods in the course of various, possibly unrelated, investigations.
As we are all aware, precious little will stop experienced and determined thieves. After all, thieving is their “job”! Best is to make it as unattractive and difficult for them as possible. And considering that most thieves around our relatively calm villages and countryside are of the “petty crime” ilk, friendly neighborly vigilance can go a long way to discourage them. It is also a very good idea to ask someone to remove post protruding from your postbox, open windows and shutters from time to time, and especially to take care of the upkeep of visible areas such as the garden.
Needless to say, it is also a good idea to ensure that who-ever you authorize to take any required action with local authorities on your behalf is fluent in French.