What are the best ways to prevent a burglary? H&G talks to the experts to reveal just what you should be doing to make sure your home is perfectly secure at all times.
While we may not be leaving our houses very much at present – or, at all in some cases – it is still worth making sure that your home security is fit for purpose.
'Security is always a top priority for any homeowner and given the present circumstances we are all spending more time indoors,' advises John Evans, managing director at Stormclad.
'Being at home more does not necessarily mean your property is safer from burglars, and our changing living habits present more opportunities for trespassers to take advantage of, such as the increase in parcels being delivered to homes and obvious improvements made to enhance curb appeal and improve front and back gardens.'
From upgrading doors and windows, to having a protected location for post and parcels, these are the top five suggestions for making your home safe and secure for the future. See how many you have ticked off your list below.
- See: Garden security lighting – everything you need to know
1. Find a place for post and parcels
The closure of many high street shops and businesses means that, now more than ever, people are turning to online shopping to purchase everything from food and white goods to garden and DIY equipment.
The rise is e-commerce since the COVID-19 pandemic began has been sharp, with many admitting they shop online frequently and will continue to do so at the same rate or higher post-lockdown.
As more people switch from shopping trolleys to their devices, it’s important to consider the implications of receiving an influx of parcels through the post that are often left outside the home, if homeowners are out or unable to answer the door.
Having a safe place to receive post and packages, such as a secure lockable parcel box, is a good idea to avoid opportunists who may be looking to take advantage of the increase in parcels left outside homes.
Remember to be cautious when recycling or disposing of packaging materials, letters and envelopes, too, if they have your name, address or other personal details on them – they may be a prime target for anyone looking to commit identity theft.
2. Improve front and back doors
Though homeowners are spending more time than ever in their homes this year, the risk of burglary and theft is still a threat to be wary of – old, weak doors with poor locking systems are an easy target for burglars, so upgrading entry points in your home will help to ensure it remains secure.
Not only that but choosing to upgrade your property with new front and back doors, patio, sliding or bi fold doors will improve both the aesthetic and security of your home.
Choosing quality doors for your home will also improve the property’s heat retention, potentially helping to save money on energy bills, keeping you warm and cosy while you spend more time indoors, especially during the winter months.
Be sure to choose doors that feature multi-point locking systems and meet British security standards, to give you peace of mind.
3. Make sure your windows are secure
Installing new windows is a worthwhile investment that will not only improve the security of your home, but will also enhance its thermal performance.
Choosing windows that have shatter-proof laminate glass, internal beading and effective security locking systems offer a protective barrier to the exterior of your home.
Window locking systems such as Twin-cam Security Locking (TSL) have up to eight locking points with adjustable twin-cams offering even greater security against burglary.
For all sash window locks and other window security locks, it is important to ensure the parts themselves are resistant, designed for purpose, and compliant with British standards like PAS24.
4. Keep valuables safe and hidden
Opportunists may seek any opportunity to steal valuables from your home, so be cautious as to where you store expensive items. Having expensive technology visible from the street could make your home a target and while burglars may stay away because they know homeowners are likely to be at home, they may earmark your property for a later date once you have returned to work.
This goes for valuables in your garden too – if you, like many, improved your outside space over the summer months with items such as furniture, a barbecue, fire pit, or even plants and flower pots, make sure these are kept in a safe place over winter to prevent them from being stolen.
Ensure that keys are kept in a safe place too, never leave in locks and always keep away from the letterbox, as intruders will often try to retrieve them with a hook device to open the door.
And at Christmas, of course, don't leave your gifts on show under the tree until the night before the big day. If the Christmas tree is visible from the street, too, the gifts will be. It's better to stash your Christmas gifts in an attic until you are ready to put them beneath the tree – and anything valuable stored in a safe, ideally screwed into the floor of the attic or within a walk-in wardrobe in a bedroom, for example.
5. Install exterior lights and alarm systems
For added safety, particularly during the darker winter months, it is helpful to have exterior lights around your home that have a sensor triggered by movement – this will often deter anyone looking to break into your home, garage or garden shed at night.
At H&G, we're also big fans of smart doorbells, such as the Ring; you can monitor these remotely and even 'answer' the door through them, plus they will record activity and alert you when someone is at the door. In some neighborhoods, the information gathered by them can be shared amongst neighbors and with the local police force. Best of all, they're a great deterrent in the first place.
For a more robust level of home protection invest in a visible alarm system. There are plenty of comprehensive alarm systems on the market but installing one will send a clear message to potential intruders that your home is not an easy target. A smart alarm – again the Ring Alarm is a good buy – is a good buy as they will notify you of activity and are easy to monitor remotely, giving you control while you are out.
6. Don't let burglars know you are away
Whether it's about setting up lighting timers, investing in smart bulbs you can connect to and control from your phone or even in smart blinds that can be opened and closed on a timer setting or be controlled remotely, it's really important to ensure your home looks occupied.
Other easy, low-tech precautions? Going away and have a driveway? Ask a neighbor to park in your empty driveway. Have a calendar hanging in your kitchen that's visible from the outside, too? Move it so that thieves monitoring your home can't get an easy clue as to when you're away.
7. Lock gates and hide away tools and ladders
Many thieves are opportunists, and if they can get into your garden through an open garden gate to snoop around unseen at the back of your house, they will. And, of course, if you've left a ladder and hand tools out, even in an unlocked outhouse or garage, they will help themselves to gain access more easily. So, keep gates secured, and tools and ladders locked away.
8. Make your home more visible
While we all value our privacy, and look to cultivate tall hedges at the front and back of our homes, this privacy is also useful to the burglar. If your back garden is pretty inaccessible to burglars, they are more likely to try to enter your property from the front, and if you have tall hedges in your front yard, you're offering them the perfect camouflage. So, keep those hedges at a height that's just low enough that passersby can easily catch sight of someone lurking behind those bushes.
What is the biggest deterrent for burglars?
'Visible security systems, like CCTV, are proven to be the biggest deterrent to burglars,' explains Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U.
'However, devices like burglar alarms and motion sensor lights – which give away an intruder’s location – are also effective.
'CCTV systems are becoming more affordable these days, with plenty of cost-effective alternatives available that don’t require professional installation. For example, video doorbells slot in place of your existing doorbell and record footage from the front of your home to put-off unwanted visitors.'
How often should I change the locks on my home?
'Household locks typically don’t need changing unless there’s a problem – for example, if they’re beginning to stick and becoming difficult to open,' says Izzy. However, you may also wish to change your locks if you suspect someone might have access to your home.
'If you’ve recently bought or rented a new home – or even just given a spare set of keys to a builder or cleaner with whom you’re no longer working – it may be worth replacing your locks for peace of mind.'
What should I do if I lose my keys?
If you’ve misplaced your house keys while out and about, it’s recommended to have your home locks replaced. While the chances of a stranger tracing your keys to your home are slim, it’s not worth the risk.
You may have lost them along with your purse or wallet or dropped them by your car – and it only takes one small detail like this for a criminal to identify where you live.
In an emergency – like if you’ve lost a master key and are locked out of your home – it’s worth making an emergency appointment with a locksmith.
How do I install a new front door lock?
'Fitting a new front door lock can be a tricky and precise job. It’s not advised to try it yourself unless you have experience,' says Izzy.
'If you do attempt a DIY install and damage the door, you’ll end up paying extra for a professional locksmith to correct the work. However, additional security measures like adding door bolts or chains can be done with just some basic drilling.'