Improve Your Home Security – Guidance Tips for Safety and Peace of Mind
Following reports of several break-ins and attempted break-ins in the area, we recently had the opportunity to speak with Essex Police about home security. They also provide a wealth of advice and resource on their website, but people keep making the same mistakes, so the aim of this blog post is to raise awareness of the most important home security issues. Essex Police have recently launched a new Rural Crime Strategy to help tackle the growing problem of crime across Essex. Here are some of the top tips from Essex Police, plus some added tips sourced from the local community.
The “Good Old Days” That Never Were
Those of a certain generation hark back to days when nobody needed to lock their back doors, children could play safely in the streets and the sun was always shining. Deep down, we all know that this idealised view of the past is not entirely accurate. For as long as there has been society, there have been those elements of it who want to steal what is not rightfully theirs. It is simply a case that as time has worn on, we have developed better ways of protecting our property. Unfortunately, the criminals have also become more sophisticated, resulting in a constant game of cat and mouse.
In the online world, this fact is taken for granted. It is why we are forever having to update our antivirus and firewall software, to stay one step ahead of the hackers. The same principle applies in real life. Burglars and car thieves also move with the times, and if you speak to any expert locksmith, they will tell you that what was cutting-edge ten years ago is something any amateur housebreaker can get past today.
Just how secure is your home? Perhaps now is the moment to really assess it. Here are some aspects to consider.
House entry points
To secure a home, we need to first ask how would a burglar gain entry to your property. So, perform a detailed evaluation of all the possible entry points and taking action to make them more secure. Of course, this means ensuring that doors and windows have secure locks, but that is not all. Where are the keys stored? You would be amazed how many people leave the window lock key in full view of the window sill.
Also, how about spares? Here’s a newsflash, it is no use fitting top notch five-lever deadlocks to the door and then leaving a key under that very obvious pot plant outside the front door.
If you really need to leave a key somewhere for emergencies, you can buy a secure storage box that attaches to the wall and is opened using a code.
How about the doors and windows themselves? Housebreakers, like water, will follow the path of least resistance, so a new lock fitted to an old door with a rotten frame is not going to keep them out. Old wooden door frames that have become even just a little rotten will be easy to open with a crowbar.
Lock and Double-Lock Your Door!
It is amazing how many people fail to properly lock their front door at night. Just pulling it shut leaves one simple catch for the burglar to push open with a knife. Even if you lift your handle to engage all the security locks, this can be pushed down from the outside, leaving your vulnerable. Try it and you will see! Make sure your door handle is locked too. If you have a Yale lock, deadlock it and have additional bolts on your door. Essex Police call this Lift, Lock, Remove.
Because many modern doors are made from uPVC, they tend to be a little more flexible than older solid wood doors. This flexibility allows burglars to prise them open just enough to slip in a knife to open the latch.
The chances are your back door and patio doors are locked in the same way, so ensure that all doors are properly locked at night and when you go out. Hide all the keys away too – some burglars will gain access through a small window and first search for the spare key in the draw in the hallway or the kitchen – we all keep them in the same places! Many front doors have this type of lock nowadays – it is very easy to get in if you do not keep it locked properly. This video shows how easy it is to open a uPVC door that has not been locked. If you are concerned about the security of your doors, contact a local expert locksmith today.
Property entry points
Ideally, you do not want undesirables getting anywhere close to your house, and that means securing your garden too. Gates and fences are a must, and a padlock and hasp is not expensive but can make all the difference. You don’t want to make the place look like a prison, so you might shy away from ten foot walls, but how about a line of trellis along the fence top? It looks attractive, and if anyone tries to climb over, it will fall apart noisily, attracting the attention of the entire neighbourhood.
Consider adding extra fences and gates – a small picket fence at the front of your property with a gate may be enough to act as a deterrent. Although its more of a psychological barrier than a real one, some will just walk past.
Keep it out of sight
Burglars are opportunists, so if you remove the temptation, you reduce the risk. Fit an internal mailbox cover to protect your home from prying eyes – it will also keep those winter draughts out. Also, avoid leaving keys hanging in a visible location close to external doors or windows, and never leave keys inside the lock – this is a clear signal to a burglar that if they can break in through a window, they can easily get out again.
Avoid leaving valuables in view from the front too – many people leave tablets on windowsills or coffee tables in full view. If you have a huge super hi-def TV, don’t put it on full display. A modern burglar won’t be after the TV, but for them its a sign that says you have money, and this means there will be gadgets and consoles galore that can be carried away and easily sold on the black market.
CCTV and Lighting
Many opportunist thieves are put off by motion sensor lights and CCTV, so investing in these is advisable too. CCTV can help prove that a break in has taken place, which can help with claiming insurance, and if it is of a good enough quality (HD is a must) then it might be useful as police evidence. If you plan to install CCTV, learn how to do it legally to avoid complaints from neighbours, and also make sure that you fully understand how it works, and how to back up videos you wish to keep. Test it until you are as familiar with the hardware and software as you are with your TV or mobile.
Lights need to be bright and hard to reach or tamper with. Semi-professional burglars may examine a property over several weeks to look for weak points – some burglars will even remove bulbs from security lighting during the day when everybody is out, and then return a few nights later – if the lights do not come on, they know that the owner is not paying attention. Try to blend your cameras in so that they are not completely obvious – make would-be burglars have to search for them first, that way they may feel caught out by them and retreat – plus you get evidence of their intrusion onto your land.
However, the best CCTV and security lights are still no match for secure doors and windows.
Make Access Harder
Most burglars are agile and fit, and can climb fences and gates to gain access to your back garden with much greater ease than you or I. However, if their access is made easier with a bench or wheelie bin against your fence, then they will use this to vault over.
Once they are in your back garden, they will look for easy entry points. If you keep a ladder in your shed, they may well grab this to try upstairs windows first.
Consider planting rose bushes, hawthorns and other prickly plants on the most obvious entry points around your garden – no burglar wishes to get caught up in a thorny bushy when trying to make a quick getaway. If you have a driveway, consider adding a gate across the front. It’s another barrier to entry, which increases risk for a burglar.
Anti Climb Paint
Paint your front facing boundary fences with anti-climb paint (t (also known as non-drying paint, anti-intruder paint). This leaves a paint stain on a burglars clothing that is very hard to remove. Most can recognise it, so will mark your home as “too risky”.
Going Away? Don’t Make It Obvious!
Again, many burglars will cruise by properties to access if they should be targeted. A driveway without a car on it for several days is a sign of an empty home, as are permanently closed curtains and lights on timers! The old trick of leaving some lights on at night and the TV on full volume does not fool many people these days – this is often a sign that a house is empty.
If you are friendly with neighbours, ask them to check that your bins are put away on bon day. Ideally, don’t leave them out at all if you’re going away. A quick trip to the local recycling centre before you go away can protect your home.
Don’t Keep Valuables in Obvious Places
Today’s burglars seem to be targeting homes for just a few expensive items – it is rare that they will empty a house of half its contents. Burglars will look for car keys, jewellery, iPhones/tablets and money. Most people keep these in the front hall or their bedroom drawers, so make it harder for a burglar to find your valuables by thinking of places where your burglar is unlikely to look. Maybe keep the family jewels and the keys to your sports car in some Tupperware in the freezer? Essex Police advise that you do not keep car keys in the bedroom though, as it is important to avoid confrontation. One suggestion is to hide in a drawer that is noisy to open – an old rusty drawer or heavy wood chest of drawers can make searching for items to steal more difficult – all those easy glide and soft close drawers and doors make a cat-burglars life so much easier.
Use Your Loft
Burglars rarely look in lofts, as it is too risky that they will get caught or even trapped. So, especially if you are going away, consider putting some valuables in an old suitcase under your Christmas decorations – again, they will be safer there than in your bedside cabinet.
Get a Safe
Store items that you do not use often in a safe. Passports, important documents, spare phones, jewellery and cash should be kept somewhere secure and out of sight. If you have suspended wooden floors, you could lift some floorboards and keep a safe hidden below – just be careful that damp can’t ruin the contents.
Look Out For Signs of Burglars Planning
If you see people parked up in cars and vans late at night, be vigilant. Take a number plate and report them through 101. If a burglary occurs, it may give the police a good lead. In some areas burglars collaborate and mark homes up as easy targets, or too risky. Here’s what Devon Police found in one of their neighbourhoods:
If you see any of these signs, or anything that is similar and unexplained, report them to the police and speak to homeowners. We have not seen this in Great Baddow, but tactics are changing all the time and if seasoned burglars are checking out homes for others to follow up weeks later, they may well leave symbols like this.
Remember, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Check your home is secure, and fix any problems asap. Spending a few hundred pounds on some new locks may be the best investment you make this year.