A secure home not only allows peace of mind for you and your family but will also be attractive to potential buyers.
The nature of burglaries in the UK is often opportunistic, with around 20% of ‘break-ins’ not involving any ‘breaking’ whatsoever.
Thieves simply wonder through open doors or slip through open windows without breaking so much as a sweat, let alone your doors or locks.
In recent years there has been a controversial television series which involves ex-burglars demonstrating how easy it is to break in to houses, and in fact, filming them doing just that.
The reason behind this programme was not to show how clever the burglars are, or to give budding apprentice burglars some tips, but to convey the importance of thinking like a thief and to allow the viewer to gain an understanding of how to deter a potential intruder from seeing your home as a possible target.
This guide aims to do the same thing; getting you to consider your home security through a burglar’s eyes.
Everybody knows, or at least everybody should know, the importance of locking your doors. However, the type of lock and the type of door should not be overlooked.
Wooden doors that are used for entry into your house should be at least 44mm thick and with substantiallocks. Five lever mortise deadlocks kite-marked to at least BS3621 are recommended and on top of a thick door with a substantial lock, an internal bolt on your door, for that little bit of extra security, can be purchased cheaply and will do no harm.
It is very important that doors and door frames are fitted by professionals, or at least somebody who knows what they are doing, as all the locks in the world can quickly be rendered useless in the absence of a sturdy frame and properly fitted hinges.
Unfortunately, another thing that can weaken your door is glass panelling, however, if you are particularly keen on the aesthetics of glass panelling there are secure solutions such as laminated and reinforced glass that can be fitted.
Patio doors can also be somewhat flimsy. Most modern doors are relatively secure with a multi locking system but certain older products may need some reinforcement, it may be worth seeking specialist advice to ensure that you have substantial locks at the top and bottom of your doors.
Letterboxes can also compromise your homes security, especially if you leave your keys on show, and within reach of your door.
If thieves can locate the whereabouts of a set of keys and you have a standard open letterbox, they will have little trouble in fashioning a long device with a hook on the end of it to fish your keys through the letterbox. Look into securing your letterbox with a cage, alternatively there is the option of an internal cover or built in bristles that will also prevent any draft.
With regard to your keys, keep them in a safe place, whether they are car house keys, car keys, or shed keys, do not keep them on show or under your mat! It is also somewhat of an annoyance but considering changing your locks when you move house may be the only way to ensure that you are the only key holder to your new home.
Door viewers (spy holes) are also a good way to identify anybody who is at your door before you open it which can give enhanced protection against bogus/hostile callers and give you that extra bit of peace of mind so that you do not panic every time your doorbell goes.
Also, with regard to strangers calling at your door, do not be afraid to ask for some ID, or even to request that they come back when somebody else is in, a legitimate caller should be respectful of your cautious attitude.
Burglars often see windows as, well, great windows of opportunity. Quite literally! Around a third of burglaries involve an intrusion through a window and they are therefore very important to home security.
If security is important to you, and you would like to be as secure as possible, then there is no getting around the fact that double glazing, whatever your opinions of it, is a must. And laminated or reinforced glass is a welcome extra.
Particular attention should be paid to downstairs windows, easily reachable upstairs windows and windows that cannot be seen from the street. Visible window locks will act as a deterrent as burglars will not want to smash glass and attract attention.
It is extremely important that you are not dismissive of windows because they are quite small or because they look, to you, like they would be a ‘real pain’ to get into. A skilled burglar can get through any opening larger than a human head and will not necessarily be put off by a window that looks like it would be a ‘pain’ to infiltrate.
Motion sensor lighting can be an invaluable deterrent to potential intruders as around 60% of burglaries take place in darkness.
There are a few things to consider though when choosing your security lighting including the waste of power if they are activated during daylight hours and where they are pointed.
Whilst you want your lights to sense movement around your property and attract attention, it is not necessary that they should turn on every time somebody walks past your home on the other side of the street. It is also important that your light does shine directly onto your neighbour’s window every time a cat strolls onto your drive at night. The safety of motorists is another concern; avoid lights that will impair the vision of passing vehicles.
Internal lighting can also be a useful deterrent. If everybody in your household is going out for the evening consider leaving your lounge light on to give the impression of occupancy.
Alternatively, you can purchase a timer that fits onto the plug of your lamps and will automate the switching off and on of your internal lights (the same technique can be used for radios) so even if you are away on holiday the perception will be that somebody is home. Consider, as a burglar, how much more a appealing a home would be that is in complete darkness than one with the light on in the front room.
By the same token, if you are away for an extended period of time is a good idea to cancel any milk or newspaper deliveries and if you have a porch ask a neighbour to pick up your mail for you. Any build up of items that have been delivered is a tell tale sign that there is nobody home!
Visible burglar alarms mounted on the front of your property are one of the best deterrents available, as well as offering a service that goes beyond the initial deterrence.
If you are planning to install a burglar alarm yourself, which can be done in under an hour if the print on the boxes of the products is to be believed, you can purchase the kits from your local DIY store for around £100-200 depending on the amount of sensors etc in your chosen package. Do not forget that, in addition to the kit, you will need ladders, a drill and a screwdriver (and possible some ear muffs)!
Marking your belongings
Making your property identifiable with an etched marking, permanent marker or ultraviolet pen can vastly increase the chances of getting your belongings back as it assists the police in finding stolen goods and makes it harder for thieves to sell on.
It is sensible to put a small marking with your postcode and house number, not your whole address and full name.
Driveways, Gates and Fences
Gravel driveways can instantly put a burglar off your property as it is noisy underfoot and will attract attention. With regard to gates and fences it is important that they are properly maintained and remain a sufficient obstacle to an intruder.
Fixing trellis on the top of solid walls can leave them difficult to climb over. However, be cautious with home made solutions such as broken glass or barb wire since they can prove disastrous for a pesky, but innocent, child trying to get his ball back and you could even be held responsible for any injury to an intruder.
Gardens, Tools and Sheds
Try and avoid making things easy for the burglar. Leaving spades, loose bricks ladders etc up against your garden wall is akin to leaving mince pies and a glass of sherry for Santa.
Anything that can be used to a burglars advantage should be locked safely in your shed, or ideally your garage.
If you do keep things such as ladders and tools in your shed then they should be securely locked down or in a secure tool box. Easy-to-use shed alarm systems can be purchased relatively cheaply from your local DIY store along with sturdy padlocks.
Whether you and your neighbours are a part of an official scheme or you are just a vigilant caring group, your area will benefit. Areas can get reputations, quite quickly, as being difficult to commit a successful burglary in, if intruders get interrupted by watchful neighbours.
Conversely, if burglars know an area is particularly selfish, passive and dismissive, where nobody even bats an eyelid when there neighbour’s alarm is going off, the area can quickly be marked as vulnerable and targeted.