Even if you are fortunate enough not to be a victim of crime, chances are you will know someone who is. Burglary is an act that has far reaching effects. In addition to the break-in, victims often suffer serious psychological effects resulting in much hardship, a situation made worse when they have to spend their valuable time after the event sorting everything out. Today, many are reluctant to leave their homes, fearing the worst, or even accepting that it will only be a matter of time before it happens to them. But it doesn't have to be this way, you do have a choice.
You may be surprised to learn that almost 80% of burglaries are committed not by professionals, but opportunists who usually strike when the property is empty. To these people, poor security is an open invitation, almost like a 'Welcome' sign, especially if getting in and out with the minimum risk is possible.
If a car thief had a choice of two cars one locked with a security system installed, or another left outside a shop empty unlocked with the engine running, it’s obvious which is going to be taken. Many would say that anybody leaving their car that way are asking for it to be taken, but very often this is exactly what is happening when it comes to home security.
I used to visit people that have been victims of burglary, upgrading their security and offering advice. My advertising leaflets read: 'Have You Ever Wondered How Others Might See Your Home?' This is speaking about home security and how someone other than yourself considers your security level, a Security expert perhaps or more to the point an opportunist thief! They could well see weaknesses that you wouldn't.
In this article I would like to look at some facts relating to burglaries which on the face of it may be worrying, but on the positive side if you know what they are, then you will be better able to do something about upgrading your existing situation.
So let’s first look at a real life situation relating to an opportunist burglary followed with by some statistics.
- You are cutting the grass on the front lawn but the back door is unlocked and when you are done you realise your handbag, keys and mobile phone have disappeared off the kitchen worktop.
- This is a typical opportunist crime. Yes, you have been burgled in broad daylight and you were only meters away. Nobody saw or heard anything and there was no damage to your property.
- With the above in mind it is known that 20% of Burglars do not have to break into your home, they just walk in.
- It is also known that 60% of Burglars enter properties through the rear of your property where they are less likely to be observed.
- More Burglaries happen during the day rather than at night.
The five above points tell us a great deal, but three of them will help us do something and combat the risk.
- Just nipping next door or working in the garden is an opportune moment for a thief.
- An unlocked door or window may as well be an open door.
- Can the rear of your property be made more secure with lockable gates, secure and higher fencing?
Now that we have the basics out of the way let the get the house doing some talking.
My House has something to Say.
Earlier we spoke about what the opportunist sees, now let us consider what they might think.
The list below will give us a general idea of the thinking of the burglar that will aid you in your thinking in regards to your Home Security.
- I don't want to be caught.
- I don't want to be seen.
- I don't want to be heard.
- I don't want to put too much effort into the break-in.
- Once in the property I need to consider exiting quickly and easily.
Our objective here is twofold.
It goes without saying, that having good security will make your home more secure. Good locks, strong doors, window locks, an alarm system with a visible alarm box, security lights that automatically come on at the points of possible entry are all things that make life difficult for a burglar.
- Sending out a strong message.
The first objective is the obvious one, but the second is a bit more subtle but just as effective as it has the physiological deterrent based on the above list that will prevent the opportunist from even attempting or considering your home as a target and this above all is what we all want.
Faced with a property that is sending out a strong message a burglar’s thinking could be as follows: ‘This one could be too risky', (remember, no criminal wants to be caught). There could be for a number of reasons for this thinking, such as the construction of the doors and frames being too heavy and too well fitted to overcome. Having more than one heavy duty mortice lock fitted to a single door. Further thinking might be; ‘Even if I got in through a small window the break-in would cause a lot of noise, set off the alarm and heighten my risk of being seen. Once inside how do I get out again through that small window with any stolen items because the door locks have deadlocks which means I cannot open them from the inside without a key’.
Given that this particular property presents so many obstacles it falls outside what would be classed as attractive to the opportunist; as for the thief, he also gets this message.
There are many types of locks available, but how do you decide which is the best to use? Insurance companies and the police recommend a five lever mortice deadlock which has the British Standard 3621:1980 kite mark stamped on it. In fact, many insurance companies now insist that if you want them to insure you, you must have (in addition to other requirements) the British Standard rating on your locks. But what does all this mean, and why is it an important security device compared to other locks.
A British Standard deadlock must have the following:
- A minimum of five levers
- False Notching
- Handles must not operate the deadbolt
- The bolt must project no less than 14mm when locked
- Both sides of lock must be protected by anti drill plates
- Vulnerable fixing screws on all parts of the lock must be concealed when door is locked
- There must be at least 1000 key variations
The mortice lock is very popular, and has been in existence for many years. Chances are, you already have them fitted to your existing doors. A mortice lock is the type that has been designed to fit inside a door by means of a mortice (A mortice is simply a woodworking term that describes a hole that has been cut into timber as part of a woodworking joint, hence the term 'mortice lock'), rather than the type designed to fit onto the door surface, such as the rim lock, rim cylinder lock, or night latch.
Generally speaking, there are two types of mortice locks that are used for external domestic properties; the mortice deadlock and the mortice sashlock.The mortice deadlock shown here on the left, fits into the door, does not have handles, and operates by key only. When the door is closed, only the key hole or the plate that covers it (the escutcheon plate) can be seen. The locking action is achieved by a bolt that shoots out of the lock when the key is turned, which goes into a metal striker plate that is fitted into the doorframe. The locking bolt cannot be pushed or pulled back, (is not spring loaded) without using the key, so by unlocking it. This feature where the locking bolt is fixed, is known as 'deadlocking', hence the term; deadlock. This type of lock would be used as a secondary device in addition to a lock with a latch action.
The sashlock works in the same way as the mortice deadlock having a key operated deadlocking action, but it also has a latch which is operated by door handles, which serves to hold the door closed without locking if required. When compared to the deadlock, the latch can be seen above the locking bolt as in this picture of the sashlock on the right. What should be remembered is, that the term 'deadlock' can be applied to both locks.
Never leave keys under plant pots and doormats; you never know who is watching when you are leaving the house. Keys left in this way are a real opportunity, for a burglar, rather like winning the jackpot! The same applies to keys left within the house. If they can be seen (by, looking through the postal letter plate flap or window), even though the house is locked, the would be intruder knows that if he was to enter by other means such as a window, keys left within will provide easy exit through the front or back door.
The same applies to keys left on a table near the front door. It's not unusual for poles or lengths of wire to be used to 'fish' them out through the postal letter plate.
All ground floor windows should have locks fitted to them.
Upvc windows are especially vulnerable where the glazing bead is fitted externally. Once this bead is removed, the glazed units can easily be removed. With windows of this type, consider removing and refitting the glazed units, using security tape to hold them in place, or refit them using clear silicone seal applied to each corner of the frame. Most windows are now fitted with internal beading, which means that they are very secure in this respect, however, there are still windows being installed that are not. If you are considering new windows, check which type you are being offered.
Curtains and blinds fitted to windows make it difficult for a burglar to see inside the house. Also, ornaments on the window ledge can also be a problem to a burglar, as they could make it difficult for them to get in without making a noise.
Sheds and Garages
Though the contents of the garages or shed may not contain items of any real value, they do often contain tools and ladders, all the things required to break into a house. You should lock tools away within any outbuildings in which they are kept, and secure ladders with a chain and padlock, to a wall. Also make sure that your garage and shed are also securely locked.
Extensions and Garage Roofs
Very often, outbuildings are located next to, or joined to the house. Because they are usually single storey with flat roofs, they are relatively easy to climb onto by means of drainpipes or an adjoining fence. Once on the roof, there is easy access to upper floor windows. In this situation, you should pay special attention to these windows and treat them as you would ground floor windows, by fitting appropriate locks.
Drain pipes can also be used to access upper floor windows. To combat this, you could apply anti-climb paint to pipes at a level beyond reach.