Britons are being urged to secure their homes against a potential surge of burglaries when lockdown ends.
There was a 20 per cent drop in house burglaries last year compared to 2019, according to analysis of government crime figures by the home insurance company Hiro.
Criminals’ overall takings were down by £103million in 2020 as homeowners spent the majority of their time in their properties. This equated to individual losses for burglars and thieves of £12,954.
Peoples eagerness to flee the confinement of their homes presents an opportunity for burglars, who will be looking to recoup their lockdown losses
There are now fears of a domestic burglary resurgence as the nationwide vaccination rollout progresses and lockdown restrictions ease.
As people begin returning to offices and heading off on holidays, many homes could soon be left vacant for long periods for the first time since March last year, encouraging burglars to try and take advantage.
‘Just as legitimate businesses are looking forward to a post-pandemic sales bounce, criminals will also be looking to recoup their losses, with burglars missing out on £103.2million worth of crime in 2020,’ says Krystian Zajac, chief executive of Hiro.
‘Of course, we don’t feel sorry for this group – but they’ll be licking their lips at the thought of millions of properties left vacant as families rush to enjoy long-postponed holidays.
‘Now is the perfect time to act and to make sure your home is as safe as possible.’
How can Britons protect their homes?
1) Secure the perimeter
Before focussing on your front door and windows, think about securing the perimeter surrounding your home.
This would include securing locks on outside gates, and ensuring the front hedge isn’t too overgrown which would provide cover from the road for a potential burglar.
‘Homeowners need to make their property too difficult or risky to target so burglars move on,’ says Steffan George, managing director of the Master Locksmiths Association.
‘Tidy any items away in the garden that could be used by a burglar to gain entry and make sure garden tools are securely stored away in a locked shed.
‘Gardens should also be kept tidy and clear of overgrown shrubs that a burglar could use for cover.’
2) Install reliable locks on your doors
Burglars will be looking to take advantage of any perceived weaknesses and nothing will be more appealing than the sight of poor-quality locks.
Lock snapping is a common technique used by burglars on cylinder locks. These are found on almost all homes that have UPVC doors, as well as a large number of composite and aluminium doors.
Basic Yale locks can also be opened from the outside with a simple plastic sheet.
It might be worth changing the locks – and whatever you do, don’t leave your keys in the door
‘Lock-snapping requires zero skill and minimal tools or knowledge from the thief, and they can gain entry quickly and quietly, often taking them as little as five to ten seconds,’ says George.
‘Fitting additional locks to doors, such as a London Bar or Birmingham Bar to strengthen the frame, along with hinge bolts and window locks, should also be considered.’
It’s important to focus on all your doors, not just the front door, but any doors that provide access.
‘All external doors should have the same level of security on them – burglars don’t just target front doors,’ adds George.
3) Don’t forget your windows
Window locks, particularly on older period properties, are often vulnerable to being forced open.
Windows positioned on the ground floor or above a flat roof, for example, need to be fitted with reliable locks as they can make for easy access.
Homeowners should fit reliable locks on all windows, whether on the ground or upper floors
‘Where necessary, protective grilles can be fitted to windows to provide additional security,’ says George.
‘Make sure easily accessible windows are either not left open, or if they need to be, that they have restrictors so people can’t climb through.’
4) Don’t forget to lock up when you leave
Never be complacent – lock all doors and windows whether on the ground floor or top floor.
It might also be wise to think twice before leaving the key under the mat.
‘Failing to lock windows or doors is one of the most common mistakes that people make, and burglars often seek easy targets,’ says Kate Devine, insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket.
All external doors should have the same level of security on them – not just front doors
‘Sometimes, it’s not even about forgetting to lock windows and doors, but leaving the house for small periods of time and not thinking it’s necessary to lock up properly.
‘Leaving keys outside in hidden places can also be a risk as burglars will often look in the obvious hiding places, including under door mats and beneath plant pots.’
5) A burglar might have the idea – don’t encourage them by providing the gear
‘Lock ladders away and out of sight, as these could provide easy access to your home,’ says David Fowkes, head of household underwriting at Admiral.
‘Don’t forget to keep your garage and garden shed locked with proper security locks – and keep any tools secure and out of sight.’
6) Change the locks when you move home
If you have recently moved home, the advice is to change the locks as soon as possible.
‘The first thing you should do when moving into a new property – whether it’s a new build or an older property – is change the locks,’ says George.
‘Homeowners have no idea how many keys are in circulation for the property or even if they were given all of them when they moved in.’
7) Install a burglar alarm
If you have a security alarm, then the advice is to make sure it actually works.
‘Burglars will be able to tell if the alarm is not used and serviced regularly, so it will not act as a deterrent unless it looks used and serviced,’ says Dan Simson of Direct Line Insurance.
8) Install CCTV
Installing CCTV can act as a good deterrent for burglars, as they will worry about revealing their identity to the police.
Investing in smart doorbells or WiFi-equipped alarm systems could help ward off burglars
‘Fitting security cameras for potential intruders to see may act as a deterrent and cameras are commonly fitted on the front or back doors as this can be the first-place burglars start – so make sure they point to these key areas,’ says Devine.
‘Another new addition to the world of home security is video doorbells.
‘These allow you to view who is at the door or near to your door via your smartphone, whether you’re in or out.’
Having secure locks installed might turn out to be a waste of time if the burglar can just kick down the door
9) Is your door strong enough?
Poor quality doors, or those that aren’t robust, should be changed.
‘PAS 24 certificated doors and windows will keep homeowners and their loved ones safe, but they may also provide other benefits such as better insulation,’ says George.
10) Keep valuables out of sight but don’t look like you have something to hide
Keep your curtains and blinds open during the day.
‘Closed blinds will draw more attention during the day – but don’t leave anything valuable in plain sight of windows,’ says Fowkes.
‘If your car is at home while you are at work, don’t leave your car keys close to your front door as some thieves have used fishing rods or poles to ‘hook’ keys via the letter box.’
Better still, keep your keys in a drawer.
11) Always give the impression someone is at home
‘Burglars will look for two things – lights that are off all the time and one light that is on all the time which are both indicators of empty homes,’ says Devine.
‘Signs of homes being left unoccupied during the day and night can welcome unwanted thieves.
‘You should think about setting a few lights on a timer, or having a smart alarm system – some of which have vacation mode settings that will automatically replicate the lighting pattern of your home when occupied.’
12) Avoid posting about holidays on social media
As tempting as it might be to publicise your newfound freedom on social media – if burglars can see you’re away then this might only tempt them to act
It might be wise to check your privacy and security settings on social media before posting any personal information about that long-overdue holiday or your return to work.
‘Don’t promote your absence through social media,’ warns George.
‘As lockdown eases and hopefully comes to an end this summer, don’t promote it if you go away as people will know your property is empty.
‘If you want to post pictures, wait until you’re back.’
13) Check your contents and buildings insurance cover is appropriate
‘Home insurance can cover high-value electrical such as TVs, mobiles and laptops up to a certain cost, as well as furniture, clothing and important documents, such as passports,’ says Devine.
‘Meanwhile, buildings insurance policies can cover any damage caused to windows and doors, as a result of burglars forcing entry into your home.
‘It’s always worth shopping around to ensure you’ve got the best insurance cover for your needs and you may find you are able to save yourself £100s by switching from your current provider.’
14) Invest in a safe
Consider getting a safe professionally fitted to keep valuables out of sight.
‘Paperwork such as bank statements and ID documents should also be stored away in a lockable cabinet – personal data has a value which can be sold on by the burglar,’ says George.
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