Playing it safe to beat the crooks

Experts suggest that a determined thief will always find a way into a property. The task for any homeowner is to make it as difficult as possible for the crooks. The best way to keep them at bay is to ensure levels of home security are top notch. And, as an added incentive to cut back on the risk of becoming a victim, many insurance companies offer a discount on home and contents premiums on homes fitted with approved locks and alarms.

The price of top-end security can run into thousands of pounds, but there are some simple steps that everyone can take, which cost nothing at all. Start by ensuring that doors and windows are locked throughout the day, whether you are at home or not.

An opportunist thief will always be ready to take full advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, a fact underlined by a statistic showing that 20% of all burglaries result from open windows and doors.

There are some other basic errors that homeowners make, such as leaving spare keys in plant pots or under doormats. These are the first places a burglar will look. Leaving window and door keys in their locks is also playing into the criminal’s hands. Other simple measures that cut down the chances of becoming a victim include keeping bags and car keys out of sight.

The advice from police and security experts is to draw the curtains at night – almost 60% of burglaries happen after dark. Another tip is to use timers for lights if the house is going to be left empty. This gives the impression that someone is at home.

When a homeowner does decide to protect their belongings, there are many ways to beef up home security. It’s an unfortunate fact that many people only react after they have become victims of a burglary. Being a victim can be a traumatic experience and can prompt a knee jerk reaction. It’s important to avoid rushing out and spending lots of money.

Choosing a burglar alarm should be a considered process, as getting it wrong can be an expensive error.

If the homeowner has already made a claim, the insurance company will probably insist on window locks, and possibly more, before they agree to renew the home and contents policy. Comprehensive insurance cover is crucial, and it’s not worth skimping on cover. Anyone who is under-insured will have claims declined or scaled back, meaning the full amount will not be paid out.

Any cost of fitting a security system can be partly recouped in the form of lower insurance premiums. A discount of 15- 20% is fairly common, as there is statistical evidence to back the claim that tight security is an effective deterrent to burglars.

Shine a light

The good news is that many potential burglars will be deterred if a house looks secure and will probably seek out another target that poses less of a challenge. So when considering an overhaul of current security arrangements, the starting point should be an assessment of existing lighting.

If a property sits in the shadows, installing lighting increases the likelihood of a burglar being spotted while he is attempting to gain entry, meaning he will probably move on. It’s particularly important to illuminate doors that sit back from the street as they offer burglars some protection. But, it’s also important to think about the neighbours, so the lights should switch on when triggered by movement of a potential intruder but need to be timed to switch off again after a period of 15-20 minutes.

Good lighting at the main entrance of your home might prompt a burglar to seek out an alternative access point such as climbing a wall, finding a hole in a fence, or perhaps by clambering through a hedge. It’s possible to make life tough for the crooks by fitting a mesh fence or a trellis, and then planting shrubs to make it a little more pleasant on the eye.

Leaving garden tools and ladders lying around just plays into a burglar’s hands, so keeping them in a shed or garage is always a good idea.

Be alarmed

Installing a burglar alarm is one of the best ways to protect the home. Government statistics show that around 60%of attempted burglaries on homes fitted with burglar alarms are unsuccessful. That can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the existence of the alarm will encourage the crook to give up and look for a softer target. It takes a couple of hours to fit a standard wireless system. However, wired alarms are commonly perceived as being more reliable and are triggered less often in error, although they are more expensive.

There are several options, obviously with a range of price tags attached. These include sophisticated equipment such as CCTV cameras and panic alarms, as well as dummy alarm boxes. These look realistic and bear most of the markings of a genuine system. To the layman, they appear genuine, although there will be many seasoned burglars who can tell that it’s a dummy.

Tightening up on locks is an important measure. This applies to both windows and doors. And it’s important to include patio doors, as well as garden sheds when considering an overall security programme. With doors, the most comprehensive combination is a mortice deadlock together with bolts at the top and bottom of the door.

From a personal safety perspective, a peep hole is also a useful consideration. There is no foolproof way to avoid becoming a victim but other measures to protect property include applying invisible post code markings to items such as bicycles, joining an existing neighbourhood watch scheme, or setting up a new one to help everyone in the area.

Finally, it’s worth drawing up a list of belongings, as this makes it considerably easier to deal with an insurance claim if a criminal does manage to outwit you.