Tipping The Odds Against The Burglar
The golden rule is to leave your house as secure as possible whenever you go out. This applies not only when you leave the property, however quickly you plan to return, but it is also important if you and the family are in the back garden for example.
- Close all windows and make sure the catches and stays are properly engaged. Do not leave small top lights open; they may allow a burglar to reach a catch and let himself in, and a slim person could gain access via one. Shut windows at the front and side of the house when you are in the back garden.
- Lock or bolt doors that open to the rear or side of the property, and remove keys from locks. Check doors that open into conservatories or integral garages, and also the exit doors from these buildings.
- Bolt the side gate and any other gates allowing access to the rear of your property.
- Make sure that ladders and other types of access equipment are out of sight or are chained up, and that separate garages or sheds containing tools or equipment of potential use to a burglar are secure.
- Try to keep valuables out of sight from the windows if you can. Handbags, wallets and small portable items such as cameras or mobile phones are always tempting if left in view. Draw the curtains in rooms containing the burglar’s favourite consumer durables – televisions, laptops, hi-fi systems and home computers.
- Lock your front door, and check that the lock has engaged. Double lock if it allows this. Do this from inside whenever you and the family are in the back garden.
- Do not label your house keys in case you lose them and they fall into the wrong hands. If you ever lose your keys, get the front door locks changed without delay; the cost of this may be covered by your house insurance policy.
- Never leave a spare key concealed anywhere near the front door; burglars know all the traditional hiding places. If you are prone to locking yourself out or losing your keys, leave a spare set with 2 trustworthy neighbours (in case one is out when you need it) but do not label it with your house name or number; if one of their houses is burgled and the key is found, your house could be next.
- Draw the curtains and leave some lights on and the radio playing if you’re going out after dark.
- Always identify callers at your front door before you open it. Ask officials to produce identification, and check it carefully before allowing anyone in. Use a door chain or door viewer if you have one. Do not allow young children to answer the door.
Going On Holiday
- Your house is particularly at risk when you go on holiday.
- Cancel the delivery of milk and newspapers. If you receive local free newspapers, contact their distributor our leave a notice on the door requesting no deliveries. Do this a week or so before you depart so that you can check that it works.
- If your postman tends to leave the post projecting from your letterbox, tackle him about it well before you go on holiday. Remove internal post cages in case they become crammed with post during your absence.
- Disconnect your telephone answering machine, or reword your announcement to give the impression that you are only temporarily unable able to answer.
- Enlist the help of someone to keep a regular eye on the property. He or she should at least keep the front door clear of unexpected deliveries, and, if you are prepared to leave a key, ask for curtains to be drawn and lights put on at night. If you’re going to be away for a long period, ask for grass to be mowed at the front of the property and leaves to be cleared. In winter, a few footprints in the snow will also make the house appear inhabited.
- Take small valuables, such as jewellery, away with you, or leave them with a friend for safekeeping. Conceal larger items from view if possible, and make a note of the serial numbers of things like televisions and laptops. Take identity photographs of antiques, paintings and other valuables.
- Set your burglar alarm if you have one, and enlist the help of a neighbour as keyholder in case the alarm goes off while you are away. Make sure he or she knows how to turn the alarm off and to rearm the system. If it relies on a number combination, change this on your return for complete security.
- If you have no alarm, consider investing a few pounds in a dummy alarm box, available from most DIY stores.
Finding The Weak Spots
Most burglars are opportunists, taking their chances if they spot a property that looks as if it offers quick and easy pickings. The ideal home is empty, easy to break into, easy to get out of and not obviously overlooked. To see whether yours falls into this category, check its defences and look for its weak spots as if you are where trying to get in without a key.