Our parents talk about times when burglaries were few and far between and hardly anyone locked their doors at night or when they left the house. Sadly, that is all in the past and today’s householder must take very careful and active steps to secure his home against burglars.
Generally, your home and possessions are at risk from:
1) The professional thief who knows what he is after and can get it, quickly and with the minimum of damage or fuss.
2) The opportunist thief who sees something, like an empty house, and decides to strike there and then. He doesn’t always know what he is after and he can create a great deal of mess and damage. He is also most likely to react dangerously in haste and might cause physical harm to others.
3) The thief who gets his thrill from causing the maximum disruption and damage to other people’s lives and property.
The following tips will help you make their jobs harder.
Make It Difficult For Them
1) Be Careful. Check everything is locked and properly secured before leaving your home unattended. Do not leave windows open or ladders lying around for a thief to use to gain access.
Keep tools – gardening and DIY – out of reach. Don’t leave valuable on view from outside your home. Make a point of walking round your home, at night, to get a feel for what a thief might see. Move valuables like videos and television sets to positions out of sight from the window.
Don’t leave car doors open and never leave keys in the ignition. Do not leave bicycles outside unattended.
Always draw the curtains before you leave home for the evening and leave a light on somewhere in the house. Leaving a bedroom light makes it look like someone is home probably reading or watching television.
If your house will be unattended for any length of time, always cancel the milk and newspapers and ask a neighbour to keep an eye on things while you are away. Housesitters are a good idea, especially in outlying locations or where you have a lot of valuables at home.
For longer absences have your mail stopped or ask someone to collect it for you, from your home or the post office. Arrange to have your lawn cared for in your absence and for curtains to be opened and closed each day. Let a trusted neighbour know of your absence and ask him to keep an eye on things for you. But don’t tell anyone else. Where you will be away for a very long or indeterminate period, let the police know how long you will be away and how you can be reached in emergencies. Tell them who is looking after your house for you and how a key may be obtained if necessary.
Call the police the moment you become suspicious about anything concerning the safety of your home, family or possessions.
Do not give telephone callers the impression you are alone. Do not let small children or elderly relatives answer the door.
Do not enter your home if there are signs of intrusion. Always call the police from a neighbour’s house first.
A good barking dog is useful, especially for homes left unattended for long periods.
Have a good alarm fitted to your home and check regularly that the battery is working.
Neighbourhood watch schemes are a good idea and can reduce break-ins significantly. Insurance premiums can sometimes be lower where an effective neighbourhood watch scheme is in operation.
Ask a neighbour you can trust to keep an eye on your home for you while it is unattended. Offer to do the same for them.
2) Marking Your Valuables. Always mark your valuables in some way to help police identify them if they are lost or stolen. UV highlighter pens are useful for marking cars, bicycles and other larger items.
For antiques, collectibles and items you do not want to mark, take photographs and keep the prints in some safe place, preferably outside of your home, like at your solicitors’ office or in a bank safety deposit box.
Keep an up-to-date record of serial numbered property. Inscribe an identifying number, like your driving licence number or date of birth on appropriate valuables. Any number will do as long as you can remember what it is.
Doors: Have outside doors fitted with five-lever mortise locks. Look for quality locks that can not be picked or opened with skeleton keys. It’s a good idea to have two locks fitted. Avoid thin wood doors that are easy to break down or saw apart. Glass panels are not a good idea, unless fitted with laminated glass. Have a safety chain fitted that allows you to open the door to see visitors without allowing them access to the house. A spy-hole fitted to the door allows you to see visitors without them seeing you and without you having to open the door at all.
Windows: Have key-operated locks fitted to all windows. These are a major deterrent. Always keep the key out of sight, not on the window sill. Pay careful attention to small windows. There are thin thieves and fat ones, and others who use children to enter premises and open windows. Think about having security shutters or grilles fitted to most vulnerable windows. Never leave valuables beside an open window.
For French windows have heavy duty sliding bolts fitted to the top and bottom of each panel. Do not overlook basement windows which are frequently secured only with spring latches that are easy to open.
Skylights: Consider having grilles or shutters fitted and always use a mortise lock.
Porches: Have laminated glass fitted and do not leave your post or milk on view in the porch.
Exterior Lighting: It is a very good idea to have an outside light fitted to come on when someone approaches, especially at night. An all-night light on low power is another useful possibility.
Invest in a timer or photo-electric cell light that will turn on at dusk and off at dawn.
Outdoors: Keep fences in good condition and gates locked. Trim shrubbery and hedges where thieves might lie in wait. Prune trees that may allow access to second story windows. Do not leave ladders lying around for thieves to use.
Do not leave a key in a secret place. Burglars know what secret places to look in.
Exterior Pipes: These can be painted with a special substance that makes them difficult or impossible to climb.
Garages, Greenhouses and Sheds: The building at the bottom of the garden is an easy proposition for most thieves and can contain much valuable equipment, like lawnmowers, bicycles, toys, even cars. Always have yours properly secured and have some form of alarm or special lighting system fitted to warn of intruders. Keep doors closed and locked at all times. Make sure doors and locks are fitted and kept in good repair.
Further Advice: Ask your local police station to advise you on all aspects of home security.
UV Pens and property marking kits can identify and help safeguard your valuables. Ask at stationers and DIY stores.
If you are hard of hearing ask about special alarm systems and smoke detectors.