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It has been about 20 years since Wayne Ross watched his neighbour's home go up in flames, but it has left a lasting impression on him.

At the time, there had been a string of arson attacks in his Newmarket, Ont., neighbourhood. "The arsonist hit the home right beside us and that brought it to life for me," said Mr. Ross, adding he quickly installed security alarms at his house. "For the next 90 days, I was up every night, just walking around."

As vice-president of national property claims at Aviva Canada, Mr. Ross has seen many families devastated by break-ins and vandalism.

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In Canada, burglaries peak in the summer months, when people tend to go on vacation or away on the weekends. The number of break-ins increases toward the end of the week, with thieves 28-per-cent more likely to strike on a Friday than on a Sunday.

Aviva insurance claims data show a 4-per-cent increase in break-ins in June over the monthly average, followed by increases of 9 per cent and 20 per cent in July and August, respectively.

The average dollar value of the articles stolen from burglaries has increased 24 per cent to $5,560 in 2009 from $4,476 in 2002. Mr. Ross says the increase can be attributed to easily grabbed electronics, such as laptops, cellphones and video game consoles.

Quebec homeowners have the highest number of break-ins, according to Aviva, with claims double that of the national average. At just one-tenth the national average, Newfoundland has the least number of burglary claims.

Intruders usually enter a home in one of three ways: through the basement, forcing entry through a window or door, or simply opening an unlocked door or window. Be sure to secure those areas, Mr. Ross said.

"A lot of these crime losses are small B&Es and there's a lot of kids involved in that," he said. "They wait until the people are out of there, they break in. They want easily fenced items. They want the alcohol or loose money or jewellery sitting around."

Mr. Ross suggests these precautions to avoid a break-in this summer:

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Ensure all windows are locked. If your windows are old, consider upgrading to newer models with improved locking systems.

Make your home look occupied when you're away . Park a neighbour's car in the driveway, program a timer for household lights and ask a neighbour to collect mail and newspapers.

Install a security device with a loud alarm or flashing lights. Some alarms even contact authorities directly when they have been activated.

Use deadbolt locks on all doors, and when moving into a new property, have the locks changed.

Put your jewellery in a safety deposit box. And if you are going on vacation, find somewhere safe to store your other valuables. Do not try to hide them in your home. Thieves are smarter than you think when it comes to finding valuables.

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