Part 2 of our common sense guide to properly protecting your home valuables and contents - paths and gardens, sheds and garages as well as property marking and securing your home while unoccupied or empty
Paths and gardens
Install some outside lighting. Each door should have a sensor light which will automatically turn on either at dusk, or when somebody approaches the door.
Thieves love working in dark, concealed areas, so something as simple as an outside light will act as a deterrent.
They also enjoy working in areas surrounded by large bushes. If possible, trim shrubs to deny the burglar hidden areas to work.
Trees sited close to a house can provide a quick and easy access to your first floor windows. Trim the lower branches which may be used as a ladder.
Do not leave ladders and general garden tools laying around the garden. Many tools can be used for forcing windows and door open, and ladders are an open invitation to the opportunist thief.
Ensure that your gates and fences are well maintained. If a thief does manage to penetrate your security measures, perhaps by climbing over a fence, he will find it far tougher climbing back over with his spoils. Larger items such as televisions will cause him far too much inconvenience to be worthwhile stealing.
Sheds & garages
Many families keep valuable items in their garage. Apart from your car itself, bikes and expensive tools are high on the burglar's shopping list, so keep your garage door closed and locked at all times.
If you have an integral garage (ie. direct entry from your garage to your house) it is essential that that the door from the garage to your house is as secure as your main front door. This is important, as a burglar working in your garage would be out of general view.
Your garage windows should be as secure as the ground floor windows of your house. You probably keep tools and ladders in the garage, so it's important that these items are not readily available to make the thief's next task - breaking into your house - easier.
Garden sheds carry similar risks to the garage. Ensure that doors are locked and padlocked. If possible, install a sensor light close by - this acts as a deterrent, but is also useful for you as sheds tend to be sited in dark corners or at the foot of the garden.
Marking your property with your house number and postcode may not prevent it being stolen, but will enable the police to return your property should it be discovered. At the same time, it is a good idea to photograph valuable and rare items and make a note of the make, model and serial numbers for electrical items. The local police station's Crime Prevention Officer can advise you on how to go about marking your property.
Unoccupied homes (even if only for a short while) and holidays
There are a few sensible precautions to take when you go away, even for just a short while. It is advisable to make your house appear occupied.
A trusted neighbour or local relative can be a real help. So long as you don't overdo the request for favours, they're normally quite happy to cover the little tasks which can give your house an "occupied" feel. Free newspapers and post sticking out of your letter box for a couple of days can be a clear indication that you're not home and the problem is easily solved by neighbours pushing them through. If they are also happy to draw your curtains morning and evening, tend to your lights and switch a radio on, so much the better.
If you're not lucky enough to have a friendly neighbour, ensure that you set timers to switch on lights and a radio. If possible, vary the timings so that they don't appear too regular … and, although it may sound obvious, don't forget to cancel newspaper and milk deliveries for the period you're away.
Another sign that you're on holiday can be the front lawn growing out of control. This isn't so easy to solve (unless your neighbour is also prepared to give the lawn a quick mow for you!). If not, try to cut it just before you leave.
Finally, remember to bring a gift back for your neighbour to say "thank-you".