Your home is your haven, a place of privacy and safety, and it's a sad truth that burglars are only too happy to take advantage of properties that aren't properly secured. Reduce your risk of a break-in with our top tips.
To deter thieves, or at least make it hard work for them to get in, it is wise to fit at least two locks to outside doors, with one preferably a five-lever mortice deadlock, which makes life tough for burglars. Hinge bolts will add an extra layer of security, and if you have a glass-panelled door, consider having laminated glass fitted, or at least film that has the similar effect of making glass more difficult to break. A letter-box cage will help to prevent any tampering with locks from the inside, and a door chain will allow you to answer the door without anyone being able to barge their way in.
Don't forget to fit locks to French doors, both at top and bottom, ideally with a security mortice lock and mortice bolt. These kinds of doors usually require specialist locks, but your local DIY store should be able to advise. All accessible windows should also have locks fitted, with the keys kept well out of sight. However, you'll need to keep keys within reach in case of a fire. Garages should also be fitted with locks, and frosted glass if there are windows so that burglars can't tell if your car is there. It is particularly important if you have an attached garage to install mortice deadlocks on the adjoining door, and possibly a peephole allowing you to check safely should you hear suspicious noises. A C-clamp attached to the opening roller on the garage door will stop thieves from entering from the outside.
If possible, get a professional, qualified locksmith to do the fitting - you can find one in your local area at the Master Locksmiths Association website.
Visible burglar alarms not only act as a deterrent to the opportunistic burglar, but can alert you if something is wrong at your home when you're out. The cheapest option is a bell-only type, but these are often ignored by others in the neighbourhood, so a better choice is some kind of monitored alarm. These are, of course, more expensive, but afford you peace of mind by sending a signal or message when the alarm is triggered, either to a call centre (the more expensive option) who will call either the key holder or police, or by calling pre-set numbers.
When it comes to alarms, you should get quotes and advice from at least three different firms, or consider asking your insurance provider which companies it recommends. Outdoor lighting acts as a deterrent for thieves, while also allowing you to see safely after dark. Choose from low-level light that comes on as daylight fades, or a motion-detector alternative.
Where feasible, you should consider marking your possessions with your postcode and number of your house. This makes items far less tempting for burglars, since it will be much harder to sell them on. Valuable possessions can also be registered free at Immobilise.com, which helps to identify owners of stolen property.
When you're away
Thieves will often keep their eyes peeled for signs that a property is empty and the owners are on holiday. To combat the added risk, remember to cancel regular deliveries that could give you away, and invest in some plug-in timers that switch lights on at allotted times, though not in rooms that passers-by can see into when lit. Closed curtains or blinds during the daytime can be a dead giveaway so best to leave them open, and remember to turn down the ring tone on your landline phone, since burglars will even spot an opportunity if they hear unanswered ringing. If you are away for a long period of time, ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on the property for you.
For more information and advice on how to keep your home secure, contact the Safer Neighbourhood team at your local police station. They are often happy to come out to your home and provide an assessment and advice free of charge.
Have you been burgled? What advice would you give to others looking to improve their home security? Leave your comments below...