Sadly, last year there were more than 432,000 burglaries in England and Wales, up 2% on the year before, according to the government.
But you can take some simple – and often cheap – steps to deter burglars.
“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 put in place the right security measures. “When I visit homes, I look for deterrents, what would put a burglar off from going in and move onto a less well protected property,” he says.
Below are some of the simple tips Mark advises when visiting homes. Share them with anyone you know who is particularly vulnerable and needs to improve their security. You can find more detailed advice on reducing the chance of being burgled here.
1. Get a burglar alarm (it doesn’t have to be real)
According to the police, 84% of burglars avoid homes with visible home security systems. If you can’t afford a real alarm, consider a dummy one.
Also, dummy CCTV can be a deterrent, if you can’t afford the real thing.
2. If you go on holiday, ask a neighbour to park their car on your drive
Similarly, to give the impression someone is at home, consider putting lights and items like radio and televisions on a timer switch.
3. If you can, put gravel on your driveway
It’s noisy 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 put one on a gate, regardless of whether you really have a dog.
If there is not a good place to put a sign, then Mark suggests putting a ‘I love rottweilers’ sticker in your window.
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 often 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 it’s necessary to keep cash in your house, 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.”
The same goes for ladders – don’t leave them out for burglars to use.
7. Don’t let them sneak in through the back
“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 for burglars
It’s easy to get into bad habits and forget the simple things. So don’t leave your keys in the lock, or hanging on a hook near the letterbox - burglars can fish them out - 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 others have access to their home.
9. Invest in the right locks... and don’t leave your keys in them
This last tip might involve spending a bit more money, but it’s essential.
Ensure that all downstairs or easily accessible windows have working window locks and use them. Door locks should meet British Standard 3621.
And of course, remember to lock up - even when you’re just in the back garden.