Top tips to help keep your home secure against the threat of prowling burglars
Somewhere in the UK a property is being broken in to every 40 seconds, Lisa Salmon asks crime prevention experts for house-security advice
Homes with no security measures are five times more likely to be burgled than those where owners have taken simple security precautions, according to police figures. Furthermore, there's a burglary approximately every 40 seconds in the UK, so making sure your home is as protected as possible really is key.
"Burglars are often opportunistic thieves, who seek any opening they can take advantage of, specifically doors and windows left open or unlocked, or that are easy to force. But it really doesn't take much to deter these thieves - just smart thinking," says Kenny McHugh, senior development officer for the national police crime prevention initiative, Secured by Design (SBD, securedbydesign.com).
"Physical and visible deterrents give the criminal the first indication that the owner of a property has an awareness around security and the criminal will often move on elsewhere to look for somewhere quicker and easier to break in to," he adds.
To make the necessary home security measures clearer, West Midlands Police have worked with a reformed burglar to set up the online virtual reality crime-fighting challenge, 27 Station Road (west-midlands.police.uk/27stationroad). The idea is, site visitors play a detective investigating a burglary at the interactive house, gathering clues about how the burglar broke in and what the householder could have done to help prevent it happening.
Meanwhile, here are some home-security tips from Crimestoppers (crimestoppers-uk.org) and SBD...
1. Make the house look occupied
Crimestoppers recommends switching lights and/or a radio on when you go out - you can buy timer devices to do this automatically. If you're going away on holiday, use timers for the lights and ask a neighbour to keep an eye on your house, take in any milk and newspaper deliveries and maybe even park on your drive.
2. Hide keys
Hide all keys, including car keys, out of sight and well away from the letterbox as a device could be used to hook keys through it.
3. Install a burglar alarm
Consider a good intruder alarm system installed by a reputable alarm company - there's guidance on NSI and SSIAB accreditation for alarms on the Secured by Design website. Crimestoppers advises fitting burglar alarms with flashing lights and sound at the front and back of your property. However, the police warn that an alarm should be installed as part of a series of crime prevention measures, as on its own it won't prevent entry to your home.
4. Lower fencing
While you might think higher fences keep your home protected, the reality is that the lower the fence, the easier it is for intruders to be spotted. "Burglars don't want to be seen, so lower fences at the front of a property are better than high fences as they allow for natural vision over and don't provide cover for someone hiding," explains McHugh. "Likewise with hedges at the front of your property - keep them at a height where passers-by can maximise the natural vision."
5. Always lock windows and doors
Burglars often look for homes with windows or doors left open, or with vulnerable features they can exploit. Crimestoppers warns householders to check all doors and windows are properly closed and locked before going out, even if it's only for a few minutes or you're just out in the garden. And when you're at home, try not to leave accessible windows open at night. If you need new windows or doors, SBD recommends fitting ones with Police Preferred Specification, which have been tested to ensure they're robust enough to resist physical attack by burglars.
6. Fit outdoor sensor lighting
Outdoor lights operated by sensors will make intruders feel vulnerable and observed, so consider dusk-to-dawn lighting which illuminates areas such as the front, side and rear of your home. Crimestoppers advises householders to make sure the lights are tamper-proof.
7. Check outside
Crimestoppers advises homeowners not to leave garden tools outside, and keep ladders out of sight, as they could be used to break into your home. Make sure sheds, garages, outbuildings and exterior gates are locked.
8. Install CCTV
CCTV and smart doorbells, which can have live video streaming, motion sensors and two-way audio, can alert you to someone inside the boundary of your property if they're monitored, for example by being linked to a smartphone.
9. Mark property
Make valuables less attractive to thieves by using a police accredited forensic marking solution to mark valuables with your postcode and house number. "Property marking is a great deterrent and makes it easier for the police to trace and recover stolen articles," says McHugh. Also, register valued possessions with the free Immobilise property registration service (immobilise.com).
10. Go for gravel
Gravel driveways and paths are ideal at preventing a silent approach.
11. Join Neighbourhood Watch
Crime prevention experts recommend joining your local Neighbourhood Watch (ourwatch.org.uk) scheme, and McHugh says: "These help to cut crime and the opportunities for crime, and encourage neighbourliness and closer communities."
12. Get a dog
The police say getting a dog is a personal preference and isn't usually a specific crime prevention measure, as some will bark at the sound of anyone approaching the house and others may not. However, there's no doubt that if you've got a dog that does bark when it hears an unexpected noise, it will help deter burglars - particularly if the dog is big!