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There are a number of products available, designed to help you secure your home. They all have their uses, but the most important things to remember are the common sense cost free steps you should take to help keep your home secure.
Of these, the 10 main areas in my experience in which people fail to adequately protect themselves are as follows:
* Leaving the front or back door open - many of us operate under the misapprehension that if we are in the house we will hear anyone coming in. Not so - it only takes a minute to nip in unnoticed, steal whatever is handy and make good your escape
* Nipping out for a couple of minutes and leaving the door unlocked - opportunity breeds temptation. Whether opportunist or experienced criminal, they'll be in and out in no time
* Leaving windows open, especially downstairs. Sometimes we fail to properly check that all doors and windows are closed and secured. It's just lazy and asking for trouble.
* Keeping valuables in full view or choosing obvious hiding places. You can get a decent quality digital safe these days for about thirty pounds but the mistake many make is to leave them loose in the bottom of a wardrobe. You should secure them to the wall or floor and make it really difficult to remove them. If a thief knows it will take him time or require undue noise, he will often try somewhere else.
* Leaving a door key in an obvious place such as under the mat or a nearby flowerpot. It might be convenient for you but also very convenient for those intent on getting into your property.
* Insecure sheds/outhouses/garages. Given the number and value of items typically stored in these places, we often don't give these the same attention when it comes to security.
* Leaving bikes/outdoor toys outside in full view of passers-by. If lack of space requires these to be stored outside, it's generally quite easy to secure these when not in use using a chain.
* Leaving a note on the door telling people you are out and the time you will be back. Silly or what?
* Similarly, leaving a message on your answerphone to the effect that you are on holiday. This is an open invitation to thieves. Most systems these days allow you to dial in to your own answerphone to retrieve messages so there's no need to let the world know you're away.
* Loose talk on a social networking site. Think before you post things - you are at risk of giving away lots of information that will be very useful to thieves.
There you go - 10 things you can do that will cost you nothing. If you take no other steps, take these and minimise the risk that you will fall victim to crime.
do you every thing about if your home is safe when you are not there well then you can always get home Security Most burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves. In two out of ten burglaries they don’t even have to use force – they get in through an open door or window. Look at your home through the burglar’s eyes – are there places where they could break in unseen? Have you fitted strong locks on your doors and windows? Would they have to make a lot of noise by breaking glass? Reduce the risk of burglary happening to you by making sure you’ve taken these simple precautions. For a relatively small outlay you could make your home more secure and buy peace of mind into the bargain Windows A third of burglars get in through a back window. Easily visible locks may deter some thieves, because a window lock forces the thief to break the glass and risk attracting attention. DIY shops sell inexpensive key-operated locks to fir all kinds of window. Fit key-operated window locks to all downstairs windows, those which can’t be seen from the street and easily accessible upstairs window, eg. Those above a flat roof or by a drainpipe. Even small windows such as skylights or bathroom fanlights need locks – a thief can get through any gap larger than a human head. Remember to remove keys from locked windows and to keep them out of sight in a safe place. Louvre windows are especially vulnerable because the slats can be removed easily from the frame. Glue the slats in place with an epoxy resin, and fit a special louvre lock. Better still replace them with fixed glass. If you are replacing windows – consider laminated glass. As a last resort, consider fitting security grilles to vulnerable windows – many DIY shops now sell decorative wrought iron grilles. Around the house LIGHTING Good lighti
ng can deter a thief. Some exterior lights have an infra-red sensor that switches the light on for a few moments when it detects something in its range. Sensors can be bought separately to convert an existing outdoor light into a security one. Look in when you’re out. Most burglaries happen when a house or flat is empty, so: Use time switches – available from DIY shops – to turn on lights, radios and other appliances when you’re out. Don’t tempt the thief – keep all valuable items out of sight. Don’t advertise your absence when you’re on holiday, or even when out at work or shopping. Most burglars will only tackle an empty house. If you can, get a friend or neighbour to look after your home when you’re away, by collecting your post, drawing your curtains at night and generally making the place look lived in. And be prepared to do the same for them BURGLAR ALARMS Visible burglar alarms make burglars think twice. There are many systems on the market, ranging from cheaper DIY alarms to more sophisticated alarms costing hundreds of pounds. Easily installable ‘wire-free’ alarms are now available whereby sensors fitted around the house transmit radio detection signals to a control system. These systems usually take 3-4 hours to fit. Wired alarms are cheaper but take longer – around a day – to install. Get specialist advice and a number of quotes. Consult your insurance company for companies they recommend before deciding which best suits your needs. The system should meet BS4737 (professionally installed) or BS6707 (DIY). Remember, a badly-fitted alarm can create problems in itself. Don’t install a DIY system unless you have the electrical knowledge and practical skill to do so. IF YOU LIVE IN A FLAT The most vulnerable part of your flat is likely to be the front door. Replace a weak door. It should be as strong as the main entry door. Fit hinge bolts which stop the door being pulled off its hinges. Fit a steel strip to the door frame to strengthen it. Consider having a door telephone entry system installed. Never ‘buzz’ open the door for strangers ot hold the door open for someone who is arriving as you are leaving. SPARE KEY Never leave a spare key in a convenient hiding place such as under the doormat or in a flower pot – a thief will look there first. If you’re moved into a new house, consider changing the back and front door locks – other people may have keys that fit. SIDE PASSAGES Fit a strong, lockable, high gate across the passage to stop a thief getting to the back of the house where they can work undisturbed. If you share an alleyway with a neighbour, ask their permission and for help with the cost. GARAGES AND SHEDS Often full of expensive tools ideal for breaking into the rest of the house – and often left unlocked. Never leave a garage or garden shed unlocked, especially if it has a connecting door to the house – a thief could get in and work on the inner door in privacy. Fit shed and garage doors with a strong padlock and make sure that they are solid enough not to be kicked in. Lock ladders inside the garage or shed to stop a thief using them to reach inaccessible windows. If there is no room inside, chain or padlock them horizontally to a sturdy bracket on an outside wall. GATES AND FENCES Check for weak spots where a thief could get in – a low or sagging fence, or a back gate with weak lock. A thorny hedge along the boundary can act as a deterrent. But make sure that the front of the house is still visible to passers-by so that a burglar can’t work unseen. DOORS SECURE ALL DOORS If your front and back doors are not secure, neither is
your home. Make sure the doors and frames are strong and in good condition. Doors should be made of solid core construction – 44mm thick. Glass panels on or around the door are especially vulnerable, so replace them with laminated glass. Fit back and front doors with a five-lever mortice deadlock – and use it. Fit all exterior doors – top and bottom – with bolts. Remember to fit all security devices with strong screws or bolts. Get specialist advice on fitting locks to patio doors. Fit both french doors, top and bottom, with a security mortice lock and mortice bolt. If you’re thinking of buying PVCu or metal framed windows or doors, make sure that they come with good built-in locks and a fitted chain, which can be very difficult and expensive to add retrospectively. Look in your telephone directory for the names of local locksmiths who are members of the Master Locksmiths’ Association. RIM LATCH Most front doors are fitted with a rim latch which locks automatically when the door is closed but can be opened again from the inside without a key. For extra protection you should consider installing the following: AUTOMATIC DEADLOCK This locks automatically when the door is closed, but when locked externally with a key, cannot be opened from the inside. CHAINS These help you to speak with strangers at the door without letting them in. Remember, if in doubt, keep them out Buy a chain and use it every time you open the door. MORTICE DEADLOCK Fit a five-lever deadlock about a third of the way up the door. One kitemarked to at least BS3621 should satisfy most insurance requirements. A deadlock with a key, so a thief can’t smash a nearby panel to open the door from the inside; if the thief gets into the property through a window they can’t carry your property out through the door.
HINGES Check that the door hinges are sturdy and secured with strong, long screws. For added security fit hinge bolts. These are inexpensive and help to reinforce the hinge side of a door against the use of force. DOOR VIEWERS Enable you to identify callers before opening the door. LETTERBOXES Never hang a spare key inside the letterbox – an obvious place that a thief will check. Consider fitting a letterbox cage which prevents thieves from putting their hand through the letterbox and trying the locks from the inside Insurance Are you fully insured? Insurance will relieve you of the financial worry of replacing stolen goods and many insurance companies offer reduced premiums for people with good home security. Ask the firm if it minds which systems you buy. Smoke detectors With all security, consideration must be given to the risk of fire and means of escape. Fit a smoke detector – a minimum of one per floor – installed to the manufacturer’s instructions to BS5446 Part 1. Be a good neighbour If you see anyone acting suspiciously in your neighbourhood, call the police. Join a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme – there are now over 130,000 in this country. Anyone can start up a Watch – call your police for details. If you are burgled A secure home ill reduce the chance of you getting burgled. But, if you get home and notice signs of a break-in: Don’t go in or call out – the intruder could still be inside. Go to a neighbour’s to call the police
The little gadget I'm about to write about could best be described as one of those "I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but at that price, I'll think of something" items. The item in question is the Micromark Camera Observation System. Woolworths currently have it on offer for £24.99, a saving of £5 on the normal price. I have to say that even at the normal price, it seems a reasonably priced bit of kit. OK, I admit it, I bought one, and no, I haven't thought of anything to do with it yet! So just what is it? Essentially, it's a miniature black-and-white TV camera with built-in microphone, with all the necessary power, sound and video connections to allow it to run off the mains and feed into your TV via a spare SCART socket. If your TV doesn't have one of these (it is a long multi-pin socket normally used for connecting VCR and DVD players), you can upgrade the system with the addition of a radio-frequency (RF) modulator, which effectively creates a new channel for you to tune your TV into. Alternatively, Micromark can supply a splitter to give you an extra SCART socket. CONNECTION The camera comes complete with 12 metres of cable to allow for it being stationed some way from your TV. The power feed to the camera, and the signal back to the TV run through the same neat cable, which jacks into the base of the camera once you've thought of somewhere to stick it! At the TV end, a typical mains adapter built into a mains plug connects to a spur in the cable, the other spur terminating in the aforementioned SCART plug. Once all three connections are made (not a screwdriver in sight), you can now get a monochrome TV picture from your new spy. To cater for gloomy or even dark locations, the camera has an array of 6 infra-red LEDs to light the area up with "invisible" light. INSTALLATION The only
permanent fixing needed is for the L-shaped mounting bracket upon which you fix the camera. I guess for semi-permanent locations, self-adhesive Velcro would do, since the camera hardly weighs anything, being only slightly larger than a box of matches. The only problem I foresee with an outdoor location is the running of the cable (and keeping the camera dry). Tacking the wire to wall and window frames shouldn't present a problem, but routing it through to the TV might. My reason for making this supposition is that at one end of the cable you have a fixed SCART plug of appreciable dimension, and at the other, there is an (admittedly) quite slim jack plug. This would, however mean that any holes in the wall/window frame need to be a tad oversize compared to the cable itself. It would be a brave person who cuts the plug off, with a view to re-soldering it after passing the wire through the wall! USES Like I said, apart from test it, I haven't permanently installed it to do anything yet. Possibilities include a "Jehovah's Witness" detector for the front porch. Joking apart, being able to see who is at the door without the tell-tale twitch of the curtains would be useful. I'd also be interested in trying to film (through the french windows) the foxes that live in the undergrowth at the far end of our garden. Judging by the whiffy state of our patio some mornings, they don't confine themselves to the far end of the garden! Mind you, one small drawback of using the camera from the inside of a window, is that the microphone won't pick up much in the way of outside noise, if any. Using an E240 tape on extra-extended-play in my JVC VCR will give me 12 hours recording capacity. A previous Panasonic VCR of mine, now defunct, was capable of time-lapse photography - now that could have been useful! If you think of any other uses (keep it clean), you could always le
t me know through the comments section!
I live in a village and until a few years ago no one would have thought to lock their doors during the day unless they were actually going out. We were relaxed about security, but times have changed and not for the better. News of burglaries is commonplace and it's all too easy to become a crime statistic. Although the number of burglaries is falling it's the crime with the lowest detection rate. It isn't entirely down to chance though. There are some things that you can do which might help to keep you out of the statistics. Some require an investment of time or money. Some just require effort or thought, but all could make a difference. Fit a burglar alarm. For an average-sized property this can cost as little as a few hundred pounds and is a proven deterrent. I was convinced about the need to have an alarm fitted when I realised that in our area one house in thirty seven which did not have an alarm was entered illegally each year, but where an alarm was fitted only one house in two hundred was burgled. Unfortunately the more houses around you that are fitted with an alarm the more your property becomes a ready target if you don't have one. There are a few systems on the market which have the option of door chimes which are similar to those you find on the doors of smaller shops. This is useful as no one can come into the house without making any noise and can be sufficient in itself to deter a sneak thief. Some insurance companies will give a reduction in premiums on house contents policies if your property is fitted with a burglar alarm. The actual requirements vary from company to company so if you are considering fitting an alarm it is worth asking your company about their requirements before going ahead. Never take up the offer of a free estimate from anyone canvassing door-to-door as it has been known for such people to be simply viewing the property with the intention of returning at a l
ater date to relieve you of some of your valuables. Be equally suspicious of anyone wanting to sell you something at the door. Ask if they have a peddler's licence and if they haven't, don't deal with them. A list of reputable burglar alarm companies will be available from the local Police, usually in the form of the local Crime Prevention Officer. It's always worthwhile asking who fitted their alarms at home! Remember too to have your alarm serviced regularly. My annual maintenance contract costs less than £60 a year, but provides considerable peace of mind. Talk to the local Crime Prevention Officer I asked the local Crime Prevention Officer to come and have a good look at our house and tell me what I could do to make it safer. The service was offered freely on the basis that the Police would prefer to give me advice to prevent a crime rather than deal with the aftermath of one. The CPO did say, though, that it was unusual for people to seek advice before they'd been burgled! The visit lasted for about half an hour and left me convinced of the need for action. One thing that did surprise me was that he didn't see our dogs as a safeguard, pointing out that a burglar was more likely to harm the dogs than to be put off by them. Locks Good mortice locks are essential on all doors and there should be further securing points such as bolts at some distance from the lock so that a crow-bar cannot be used to lever a door open at the corners. Another weak point can be the door jamb, which is often inadequately secured to the wall but this can be rectified by bolting the jamb to the wall at several points along its length with carriage bolts. Remember to consider not only doors to the house but also side doors to garages and other outbuildings where tools are often stored which could be used to break into the house. Windows should also be fitted with locks and / or bolts. Please remember to rem
ove the keys from the window locks! They can be placed nearby provided that they are out of sight both from inside and outside the house. I mentioned to the CPO that I was worried that this could cause problems in case of a fire as it would be difficult to break a double-glazed window. He told me that the weakest point was the corner of a window and in case of emergency it was always better to try and break a window from the corner rather than the centre. Beading There is little point in carefully removing keys from locked windows if the beading can be removed from the outside and the glass lifted out. On good quality modern windows this cannot be done but it is possible on some older windows. The beading can be glued into place and this could prove to be a worthwhile investment. Security Lighting Burglars do not like to be visible so a permanent light, possibly on a dusk to dawn sensor can prove to be a considerable deterrent, particularly if it is placed at the front of the house. A casual burglar will look for a house in darkness and even if a light, which is activated by movement, comes on after the burglar has approached the house it does not act as a sufficient deterrent. The decision has been made and to turn away from a property simply because of a light coming on would look suspicious to a casual observer. Lights which are activated by movement have their place as a backup on other parts of the property. Remember to set the lights so that they stay on for the shortest possible time. A burglar approaching a property where a light comes on will hide and wait to see if the householder appears. If he/she does and doesn't spot the burglar the chances are that they will retreat into the house, generally muttering something about "bl**dy cats" and the burglar is then left to do what he came to do, with the benefit of floodlights if the light has been set to stay on for a considerable time. If on
the other hand the light keeps flicking on and off the householder is going to be aware that there is more of a problem than just a cat having wandered through the garden. Sheds and Garages Don't stint on the type of lock which you put on the garage door. It should be as good as the one you put on the house door. If you have a window in the garage make certain that no tools or ladders which could be used to get into the house are visible. A piece of net curtaining over the window can ensure that tools cannot be seen even if they are not put away. Make certain too that the window is secure and the ladders are paddlocked. Sheds are often quite flimsy structures and it is simple to break into them to get at tools. The key which comes with them is generally of poor standard and the lock is easily pickable. It's worth using this as a backup and fixing a padbolt - a bolt secured by a padlock - as the main lock. Make certain that the padlock is a substantial one. Put wire mesh over the windows on the inside so that there's no easy entry even if a window is broken. Are the hinges visible? If the screws holding the hinges to the shed are visible the simplest entry is going to be to unscrew the hinges. Replace some of the screws with security screws, which can be screwed in but not unscrewed. You don't need to replace all of the screws, just sufficient to make unscrewing the others a pointless exercise. Side Passages If you have a side passage entrance to your house fir a high lockable gate so that a burglar doesn't have access to the back of the house where he can break into the house without being seen. Car keys Where do you leave them? Please don't tell me that you leave them on the window sill so that they're easy to pick up when you go out! One of the commonest crimes in this area at the moment is the theft of car keys by a sneak thief with the eventual target bein
g the vehicle that's parked in the drive or out on the road. There have even been incidents where a bendy wire has been poked through a letter box to hook keys off a table or a convenient hook. Car keys, wallets and handbags should be left well out of sight and in a secure place. The safest place to leave your car is locked and in a locked garage. I was told a little while ago that of the last thousand cars stolen in this area only two had been from locked garages. Yes, I know it's a useful place to store all that junk but it could be the difference between finding the car where you left it and spending a lot of time making an insurance claim. Hedges and boundaries Do you have a nice big hedge in front of your house? Is it there to give you some privacy? The trouble is that it also gives a burglar privacy as well! The Police recommend that a hedge in front of a house should be no more than three feet or a meter tall. This way anyone attempting to break into the house is clearly visible from the road. Boundary fences should be solid and well maintained. If you have boundary hedging opt for the prickly type. It's a very determined burglar who'll push his way through a holly hedge! Consider planting the same sort of thing under vulnerable windows. I have chaenomales (Japonica) under my front window. It has spikes on it that are reminiscent of surgical scalpels and the Crime Prevention Officer drooled over it! Post code your valuables Mark your valuables with your postcode followed by your house number. This way you stand some chance of getting them back if they are stolen. Special pens are available from stationers and also from the Crime Prevention Officer. Photograph valuable pieces of jewellery or collectables and store the photographs away from the valuables. Keep a detailed inventory of such things. I've left a record of my (few) valuables with my friend and in return I hold her l
ist. If you have a bicycle postcode it or consider having it micro-chipped, as it's very difficult to identify an individual bike. Notices are available from the Crime Prevention Officer that you can stick on your door which shows that your possessions are post coded. Neighbourhood Watch Are you a member of Neighbourhood Watch? If you're not, please join or approach your Crime Prevention Officer for help in setting a group up. Yes, I know it's got an image of twitching net curtains but it's down to what the individual group makes it. Some groups are very sociable; others are rather business-like. I'm a member of a group that looks after each other's houses when there's no one there. We close curtains at night and leave a light on, and then open the curtains again in the morning. We leave some rubbish in the dustbins and see that they're put out for collection. A check is made that post is not left hanging out of letter boxes, or building up in a pile behind a glass door. We even hang washing out on lines when people are on holiday and see that the grass doesn't grow too long. It sounds like a lot of work, but we've become a closer community over the last few years. It would save the tragedy that happened to a couple in a nearby town not long ago. The house was up for sale and one day a removal van drew up and began to load the contents of the house. One or two of the neighbours thought somewhat uncharitably that it was poor that they'd not been told that the couple were actually going that day. They weren't of course. They were being burgled. Going Away? If you're going on holiday leave the house looking as though it's occupied. Leave toys on a visible floor and a few pots on the draining board. At Christmas have some decorations up even if you won't be at home for the celebrations. (Thanks to Nikkisly for that last point!) Leave some lights on timer
switches to mimic the lighting when you are at home. Don't have your address visible on your suitcase. Just one or two of these points could save a lot of heartache, because it isn't what you lose, it's the fact that you've become a victim.