A Common Sense guide to safeguarding your property by fitting suitable door and window locks as well general advice on protecting your home. There are some simple steps you can take to increase the security of your house and possessions and reduce the chance of being burgled.
Being burgled is one of the most traumatic events imaginable … but you can do a great deal to prevent it happening. Much of the advice that follows is common sense – sometimes we just need a nudge to get started.
Start by walking around your property. How secure does it seem? Imagine that you’ve lost your key, and you need to break in! How many opportunities are there? Are there any open windows simply inviting an opportunist thief to enter? How many garden tools or, worse still, ladders, are lying around to help them? By now, you may well have discovered that your property is not as secure as you first thought.
The following list of areas to consider is by no means complete. However, it should encourage you to look at security in a new light.
Doors and keys
It is essential that your main entrance door is fitted with a 5-lever deadlock, and that it conforms to BS3621.
Check that all your doorframes are strong enough to protect your door. For example, there is little point in having an expensive lock when the frame is rotten! Equally, make sure that your door is also strong – hollow or internal doors are not suitable for external use.
Make sure that the door hinges cannot be unscrewed from outside.
Unless your front door is clear, install a wide-angle peephole to allow you to see who’s outside.
Never attach your home address to your key ring. If you lose your keys, it’s a wonderful invitation if an unscrupulous person picks it up.
Back doors are often forgotten when it comes to security. It is advisable to follow the same guide as for your main entrance door. Fit strong bolts both at the top and the bottom.
Sliding patio doors should be fitted with deadbolts. Also ensure that the sliding leaf is fitted on the inside.
Double doors or French windows should have security bolts fitted to the top and bottom of both doors, in addition to a quality lock.
For peace of mind, we all like a spare key to be readily available for those forgetful or unfortunate occasions that arise. However, don’t be tempted to find a secret place to hide it. Burglars are likely to find it. It’s much wiser to leave a spare key with someone you trust.
Don’t leave your door open or unlocked, when you “just nip out” to the shops or to collect the kids from school. And never leave notes attached to your front door stating that you’re out and when you’ll be back. An opportunist thief only needs a couple of minutes to get in and make his getaway with your prized possessions.
Double-glazed lockable windows are ideal, and relatively inexpensive window locks are available for all other window types. Make sure that you fit them to all accessible windows and remember to lock them when you’re out. It’s also a sensible precaution to keep the key out of the view of people looking in through the window,
but obviously close enough to the lock for use by your family in an emergency.
As with doors, ensure that the window frames are strong and not rotten.
Louvre windows attract a high degree of risk and an experienced thief will find them a relatively easy hurdle to overcome. If you are unable to make them secure, consider replacing them.
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”.