You don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to improve your home security. Instead, you can take some easy and practical steps to help keep burglars at bay.
“Burglars look for a nice, easy property to get into,” says Mark Scovell, who works for Hampshire charity The Bobby Scheme.
The charity employs experienced fitters like Mark to visit elderly and vulnerable people’s homes, in Hampshire and Isle of Wight, and provide free advice and practical help to make their homes more secure. “When I visit homes, I look for deterrents, what would put a burglar off from going in,” he says.
Here are some of Mark’s best tips. You can put them in practice in your own home and share them with anyone you know who is particularly vulnerable and needs to improve their security. You can find more detailed advice on improving home security here.
1. Get a burglar alarm (it doesn’t have to be real)
According to the police, most burglars (84%) avoid homes with visible home security systems. If you can’t afford a real alarm, a dummy one could still do the trick. A dummy CCTV camera can also be a deterrent.
2. If you go away, ask a neighbour to park their car on your drive
Having a car parked on your drive gives the impression that someone is home.
Similarly, you can consider putting lights and items like radio and televisions on a timer switch, so they’ll turn on and off during the day.
3. If you can, put gravel on your driveway
Gravel is unavoidably noisy when you step on it and might just be enough to deter a burglar who’s trying to keep quiet.
4. Get a ‘beware of the dog’ sign
These are cheap and easy to find. So, it’s worth putting one on a gate or in a window, regardless of whether you really have a dog.
5. Put your valuables in a safe or secret compartment
Mark says burglars are mainly after jewellery and cash, which they can often find and grab quickly. “When a burglar enters a house, often the first thing they do is run up to the main bedroom, chuck all the jewellery on the bed and see what looks good. On average, they spend just 3-5 minutes in your property”.
Televisions on the other hand are often too big for burglars to bother taking, he says.
Mark advises buying a safe. But cheaper options are available, he says. For example, you can buy hollowed out books to keep valuables in. Or an empty baked bean tin with a false bottom.
Avoid keeping lots of cash at home. But, if you choose to, don’t keep it all in one place.
6. Put away your garden tools
“In most burglaries, the double glazing has been smashed,” Mark says, adding “it’s often because people have left garden tools out. Or maybe they’ve done a bit of building work and the odd brick is left about.” Keeping these things out of sight will give burglars fewer tools to help break into your home.
The same goes for ladders – always put them away after using them.
7. Step up your back garden security
“In over 90% of burglaries, they come in through the back garden,” Mark says.
But you can make this much more difficult. Mark says: “Hinder them, not just with a bolt on your side gate, but also add a padlock so they’ve got to climb over. Put a trellis on top of your fence. Put prickly bushes, such as roses around fences. Watch where you put your wheelie bin - they’re great hop-ups for burglars to get over a gate.”
Fences and gates at the rear of the property should be at least 1.8m high, or 2m with trellising.
8. Don’t leave your keys out
It’s easy to forget the simplest things. Don’t leave your keys in the lock or hanging on a hook near the letterbox or in what you might think is a safe hiding place outside.
A key safe could help, particularly for vulnerable people who might need to let carers or other people have access to their home.
9. Check you have the right locks
This last tip might involve spending a bit more money, but it’s an important one.
You should make sure that all downstairs or easily accessible windows have working window locks. Door locks should meet British Standard 3621 – a standard by British Standards Institute (BSI) for thief-resistant locks.
And, of course, remember to lock up - even when you’re just in the back garden.
With these simple home security steps, you can enjoy your home with added peace of mind.