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How do I stop Burglars breaking into my home?

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For many victims of burglary, the psychological trauma of having their private space violated has a greater impact than the loss of a few material possessions – here’s how you can minimise your risk;

burglar breaking into a house

If you've ever had your home burgled you'll already know that the financial loss of the items that have been stolen from you is not the biggest issue you'll have to deal with.

After all, insurance will typically cover the cost of replacing the stolen items, although it's impossible of course to replace items of strong sentimental value. For most people however, it's the trauma of having their personal, private space violated (even if their home has not been wrecked or vandalised as well), that is the biggest problem they have to deal with.

In fact statistics tell us that one in every three people burgled suffer psychological scarring, which can leave them feeling unsafe in their own home.

For many victims, this can lead to the need for a period of medication to help them cope with the depression and anxiety that follows such an incident and in extreme cases can even result in people having to sell their home and move elsewhere.

The good news is that in the UK today, the number of burglaries reported annually has just about halved compared to the numbers reported in the early 1990's, thanks largely to a greater awareness of the issue among the public in general and the availability and widespread use of high quality security products in and around the home, from more secure doors and windows, to better locks, affordable home alarms and so on.

The bad news is that no one actually knows how many burglaries go unreported each year, but based simply on the reported incidents, statistically, 2 out of every 100 houses in the UK will be burgled this year – don't let yours be one of them.

As British Summer Time ends and the clocks go back, burglary numbers tend to rise as darker evenings makes life easier for burglars. Police forces around the UK recognise this and step up their own activities (including running local awareness campaigns, etc.) to help combat the problem. Inevitably however, the constant government demands for budget cuts from all police forces means that their resources are seriously stretched, which of course is bound to impact on their efforts.

...so, it's up to you to take sensible measures to protect your home and your family - here are some ideas that will help;

The Burglar:

Before launching into what you can do specifically to protect your home however, it's worth pointing out a couple of things about burglars and burglaries.

Most burglaries tend to be "Opportunistic", which means that if your home looks more of a risk to a burglar than others in your neighbourhood, the chances are they'll move on to find an easier target that offers less risk of them getting caught!

Remember, darkness and concealment are the burglars friend, time the biggest enemy – the longer a burglar is in your home – the greater the risk of getting caught!

Here are some of the simple and practical things you can do;

When you leave your home, make sure all your doors and windows are securely closed and locked - remember, even the smallest window left open is an invitation to the burglar!

...now lets look in a little more detail at the key areas to consider;

                1: Don't advertise the fact that you're away
                2: Make it hard for burglars to break in
                3: Don't give the burglar any places to hide
                4: Install a good home security alarm system
                5: CCTV as a security aid
                6: Get to know your neighbours

 1: Don't advertise the fact that you're away

Houses where no one's at home are among the most popular targets for burglars, here are some ways you can make your house look occupied when you're out;

• Use automatic light timers, set to turn on and off at different times to mimic your normal occupation patterns. The more realistic you can make your light patterns, the more convincing it will be, so use multiple timer switches set for different times and in different rooms – but for maximum effect, make sure that the lights are visible from wherever a burglar might be looking at (but do remember to make sure that your light units can be used with a timer switch)

• The type of timers you use for your lights can also be used to turn radios or TVs on and off

• Consider using timed or remote controlled automatic curtain openers, as curtains that are always closed or always open suggest no one is home.

If you have to use a fixed "Open" or "Closed" option, it's probably more natural to leave curtains partially closed, in such a way as to make it difficult for anyone outside of the house to see obvious targets such as large flat screen TVs, computer equipment, valuable ornaments, etc.

• If you're going away, turn the volume of your phone's ringer down so someone outside can't hear it ring.

• You may want to arrange for your calls to be forwarded to you or someone else while you're away as burglars sometimes call to see if anyone's home before a break-in ...and of course don't leave a message on your answerphone telling callers that you are away on holiday!

• Beware the perils of Social Media – posting your holiday snaps on your Facebook page while you are away might be a great way to let your friends know that you are having a great time, but remember it could also be a great way to let burglars know that there's nobody at home.

• If you're going to be away for a lengthy time, you may want to arrange for someone to come along and cut your lawn

• Remember, if you are going away keeping things "normal" is your best protection so you could enlist the help of a good neighbour or a member of your family if they live close to pop along regularly to tidy up or collect things like mail, papers or even doorstep milk deliveries. In principle it's better not to advertise to your suppliers that you are away, by cancelling newspapers, milk, etc.

They should also be able to help you by making sure that your rubbish bin is put out on normal collection day then returned to its normal storage area after collection

• If you normally have a car parked on your drive, you may want to ask a neighbour to park one of their cars on your driveway if yours is going to be missing whilst you are away.

• In the interest of home security, never leave notes on the door. They just say to a burglar, "Come on in."

2: Make It Hard to Break In

The second thing burglars look for is easy access. The harder it is for a burglar to get in, the less likely you are to come back to find your home has been burgled.

• Never leave doors or windows unlocked, even if your only popping out for a minute!

...and never hide a key to your house outside where it can be easily found. Leaving a key under a plant pot by your doorstep, or hidden in one of those silly and very obvious fake stones sold by some DIY Stores, Garden Centres, or via those magazines dropped through your letterbox which are full of all those things you don't really want or need, and leaving a key hanging on a string reached through your letterbox is obviously asking for trouble.

• External or main entrance doors and door frames, should be robust and of a good quality, and must be fitted with a lock(s) approved by your insurer, or you could find yourself uninsured in the event of a burglary. The minimum specification insurers typically require for the final exit door is a mortice deadlock with at least 5 levers (insurers sometimes specify a minimum of 7 levers) and which conforms to BS3621:1998 or higher specification.

• Sliding Patio Doors as a minimum, should be fitted with an anti-lift device to prevent doors being lifted off their tracks and feature multi point locking. French or Double Door style doors should at least feature key operated security bolts at top and bottom fitted vertically, to lock the doors into the top and bottom door frames.

• Windows are a favourite access point for burglars, so you'll need to check with your insurers what security specifications they require. The widespread use of double or triple glazed windows has made a simple smash and entry a more difficult and noisy event for the burglar, but you will almost certainly need metal security locks on all windows – and never leave a window open when you're away from your home – even if you're just popping next door for a quick word with your neighbour.

• Don't leave tools such as garden spades, etc. around outside that may help a burglar break in to your home, and make sure that ladders or other items such as wheelie bins which can be used as climbing aids are securely locked up out of the way. You may also need to consider having any tree branches that may help a burglar reach an upper storey window for instance, cut back.

3: Don't make It easy for a burglar to hide in your grounds

A burglar is more likely to try getting into a house where there is plenty of cover to hide them from the eyes of others passing along the street by the house.

• Keep any trees and shrubs in your garden well trimmed, especially any that are close to doors or windows.

• Planting spikey or thorny plants such as Pyracantha, Holly, Roses, etc. in beds under windows, etc. will discourage burglars from accessing those areas, ...but remember you may not appreciate them yourself when it's time to wash or redecorate your windows!

• PIR (Passive Infra-Red Detector) activated security lights that come on when someone or something passes through their detection zone are a great invention and a worthwhile investment. There are various types available, but the new generation of LED based light units use just a fraction of the electricity of the older style halogen floodlights, etc.

When choosing a security light you'll need to consider a number of factors, including; the level of light output the unit will provide, how weatherproof the unit is, how the unit will be powered and so on. As with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for and it's fair to say that most budget priced units over-promise and under-deliver (a quick check of the product reviews supplied by customers on the likes of Amazon and other on line stores websites is a sobering experience).

The other aspect to consider is where to install your lights. As a general guide, it's best to install them above easy reach, positioned so they shine down onto the area to be covered (this will also assist with the Dark Sky movement, which is working to minimise the amount of spurious light being reflected into our night sky, making life difficult for our astronomers). Your light should also be positioned so they don't shine into neighbouring properties, or into a roadway where they could dazzle a driver.

4: Install a home burglar alarm

Good quality burglar alarm systems have fallen in price over recent years and every home should really have one. Once popular "Dummy Bell Boxes" are unlikely to fool a burglar that you have a real alarm system installed, in fact they are more likely to be seen as an invitation to come in!

As a general guide, finding the best alarm for your home requires just a little research by you. Take a quick walk around your neighbourhood and make a note of the names of the alarm companies (the alarm company name will be printed in big letters on the bell box), who have installed several alarm systems in your area.

You can then call 3 or 4 of the companies and invite them to come and give you advice and a quote for your home. Make sure that your chosen company is able to provide you with a monitored service ("bells only" alarm systems are of little value in the modern world).

Technology has improved massively over recent years, so it's now easy to find a system that can incorporate dual tech (heat & movement) sensors and other clever elements, that can even make your system pet friendly – so your family cat or dog will not be constantly triggering your alarm.

Remember however, alarms are not a guarantee that burglars will not enter your home, but they do make it more difficult by increasing the risk that the burglar will be seen and caught. If it's obvious your house is alarmed, the burglar may look for an easier target.

5: CCTV as a security aid

Just like an alarm system, CCTV can act as a burglar deterrent, but there many factors to consider when installing CCTV at home including camera positioning, privacy issues for your neighbours and so on.

Cheap DIY CCTV systems bought on-line can sometimes deliver reasonable results, but often this type of solution proves disappointing in terms of both recording quality and reliability.

Investing in a quality system, professionally installed will ensure reliable operation and high definition recorded images, which may be of help to police or insurers in the event of a burglary or other sort of incident at your home.

6: Get to know your neighbours

Frenetic lifestyles, increasing use of the car, and many other factors conspire to mean that for many people, it's often not easy to get to know your neighbours, which is sad because without doubt, the best home security comes from neighbours who look out for one another.

Getting to know yours is not only all round good from a security point of view – but could even be fun as well!

Where actively supported Neighbourhood Watch schemes operate, lower levels of crime in the area often result and these schemes are welcomed and supported by police forces across the UK. If there is not already a scheme in place, your local Police Crime Prevention Officer will be happy to talk to you about setting one up.

This message was added on Thursday 6th November 2014

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