Find out how you can increase your home's security through an alarm system, CCTV and heavy-duty deadlocks.
In the United Kingdom, a staggering seven burglaries are committed every minute over the course of a year, yet recent research highlights that homeowners still fail to prioritise protecting their properties. The indications are that 14% of UK homes have no security measures in place at all and that only a quarter of properties have a burglar alarm fitted, all of which increases the likelihood of suffering a break-in. Given these statistics, whether it’s located in the heart of the city or nestled in the tranquil countryside, it’s important to take steps to keep your home as secure as it possibly can be, especially as a lack of basic security can also jeopardise the chances of a successful insurance claim should the worst happen.
When it comes to security, it’s always best to think about visibility. Inevitably, a potential intruder surveying a number of properties is more likely to discount those with a prominent burglar alarm and/or CCTV camera(s) in favour of those which lack visible deterrents.
Burglar alarms come in a number of different guises. A traditional wired alarm will run on electronic sensors that connect to a control panel and can be expensive to install but will offer reliability and require minimal maintenance. Wireless alarms use sensors powered by batteries and communicate with the control panel via radio waves. They can be installed quickly and easily but are dependent on a stable internet service. Bells-only alarms are designed to make a loud noise to scare off an intruder, but they do rely on a strong local network such as Neighbourhood Watch as they don’t automatically alert the homeowner or the Police. Auto-dialler alarms will dial your mobile or a neighbour’s number in the event of a break-in, but they do demand a strong mobile connection or a landline. On triggering, monitored alarms alert a contact centre which then issues a message to the Police or the designated keyholders, but this service incurs a monthly fee and the Police will cease responding if they receive too many unsubstantiated calls. And finally, smart home technology is seeing an upturn in smart alarms, which can be configured to call a chain of mobile numbers if the alarm goes off, enabling a swift response to any break-in.
There’s little doubt that use of CCTV is also on the rise, and this is borne out by the discovery that there are now more cameras per person in the UK than in any other country in the world. As well as providing the opportunity to monitor your property, CCTV has a number of additional benefits, not least of which is its ability to deter intruders. In 2017, research by the Office for National Statistics revealed that two in 100 homes were the subject of a robbery, with 40% of those incidents taking place during working hours. Prevention is better than cure, and adding a CCTV system to your property will help to dissuade a burglar from attempting to enter your property. Insurance companies can look favourably on homeowners who invest in the security of their properties, and the addition of CCTV makes you less of a target, thus reducing the risk. There are, however, caveats with CCTV, especially regarding your neighbours’ privacy, but smart CCTV also increases peace of mind with the ability to receive notifications and view footage on your tablet or mobile. Once installed and correctly calibrated, CCTV systems can run independently and will require minimal maintenance, although it is prudent to check that the cameras themselves are kept clean to guarantee capturing the clearest footage.
Many other home security techniques appear obvious, but – alarmingly – are often overlooked. With research indicating that 70% of burglars enter properties through the front door while the remaining 30% use a window, it’s advisable to think carefully about these two areas of potential vulnerability. In addition to standard door locks, it’s worth considering installing a heavy-duty deadlock to the front door, as well as adding a chain or a latch for added protection. In general, insurers tend to prefer front doors to have a five-lever mortice deadlock which meets BS3621 standards. When it comes to windows, it’s important to ensure that they fit well and are properly maintained, and many insurers now also insist that all downstairs windows have their own lock. It’s advisable to keep the windows locked when closed, to store the keys out of sight and even to use a blind to reduce the visibility of valuables, and if you’re adding or replacing a window, compliance with British Standard PAS 24 2016 will ensure insurance accreditation.
Elsewhere, a number of simple measures can all contribute to making your home less attractive to potential burglars. Many tricks have one goal: to slow intruders down and make life more difficult for them. Motion-sensitive exterior lighting can act as a deterrent and make burglars more visible, but it’s important to ensure that the lights point downwards and neither illuminate a neighbour’s property nor blind drivers if your property is on a main road.
As Newton Fraser of Refresh Renovations confirms, embarking on any form of building project is the perfect opportunity to review all aspects of your home security. ‘At Refresh we regularly talk to clients who have ambitious plans for their properties, but we’re often surprised that the issue of security is frequently overlooked,’ says Newton. ‘Whenever we begin planning a new-build, renovation or extension with our clients, we cover off all aspects of the specification, but we also take time to discuss how to integrate improved levels of security. Many measures are down to lifestyle and simple disciplines, but the design of a property can also have a big impact on deterring unwanted intruders, especially in terms of installing a burglar alarm, creating clear sightlines for CCTV and enabling motion-sensitive lighting all around the property.
‘Aside from that, we also recommend a number of other easy-to-implement areas of good practice. Store your house and car keys out of site, and well away from your letterbox or cat flap, as a potential intruder can use a device to hook and retrieve them. Make use of timers to ensure that your lights come on in the evenings to create the impression that someone is home, and consider activating a radio or music system to create some noise. Around the garden, avoid storing ladders and tools in plain sight as these can be used to aid entry, keep your fences in good condition and lock all side gates. These measures won’t necessarily prevent a break-in, but they will slow intruders down and increase the chances of them being caught or discouraged completely. And if your property is likely to be empty for a while, suspend your newspaper and milk deliveries, sign up for the Royal Mail's “keepsafe” service to have them store your mail for up to two months, and consider asking a neighbour to park their car on your drive. And finally, avoid posting about your trip on social media unless you have someone housesitting as burglars are increasingly using sites such as Facebook and Instagram to research homeowners’ movements.’
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