Criminals love this time of year. It gets dark earlier and events like Halloween and fireworks night provide perfect opportunities for a burglar. On bonfire night, many people are out of the house at public firework displays and parties and the noise of fireworks cover up the sound of breaking and entering. UK Police forces have found that burglaries can increase by as much as 57%* in bonfire week against the rest of the year.
From ten years of our claims data** we’ve noticed 150% rise in malicious damage claims to the home, and damage to cars increases by 50%. Common Halloween claims include smashed windows, vandalism to vehicles and damage to garden property. Obviously, theft and malicious damage are covered as standard by your home insurance if the worst does happen, but it’s best to take steps to avoid having the worry of being a victim of crime in the first place.
How to protect your home and your car
Lock up your property
Burglars are opportunists – they look for the easy targets. In more than one in every three burglaries*, thieves don't even have to use force. They get in through an open door or window. So, shut and lock up your property – even if you only go out for a short time.
Put good locks on your doors
Our research shows** that burglars target the front and back doors first. Ideally, all external doors should have three locking points. Mortice locks add strength and deadlocks can be a deterrent as they can make it hard for thieves to get out again. If you’re thinking of getting new PVC or metal doors, make sure they come with good built-in locks and a fitted chain, as these can be expensive to add-on afterwards. And don't forget the hinge side – with good locks, this is the weaker element and hinge bolts add another level of security.
Secure your glass
Glass panels on doors can be a real weak spot. If you think this is a problem in your home, consider using laminated glass as a replacement, or use a film you can stick over it to make it harder to break.
Make sure you have key-operated window locks on all accessible windows – like downstairs windows. Don't forget to remove the keys from sight and reach. Patio glass doors and sliding doors should have special locks fitted to the top and bottom. Your DIY store can help with all of these.
Make your home seem occupied
Crimestoppers claim 58% of burglaries take place in the evening or night and 34% occur at the weekend†. So, use timers or leave lights on if you are out and aren't going to get back before dark. And, consider using a radio with a timer switch – but it's best not to use a TV in this way.
Install a visible burglar alarm and outside lighting
These act as real deterrent. Even a dummy alarm can make a difference. Good lighting means there aren't any spots for the burglar to hide in while they try to gain access.
Minimise the risk of “fishing”
Don't leave your car keys or ID documents near doors, your letterbox or windows, thieves will use props such as coat hangers and fishing rods to hook keys. Don't label your house keys in case they get into the wrong hands. Keep ladders and tools away and sheds and keep outbuildings locked – this has a 2-fold benefit as your tools won't be stolen, nor can they be used to help break in.
Keep your valuables out of sight
Don't put temptation in the way of criminals by having your valuables on show from the street. Where possible, keep them out of sight from windows. And be aware of top pickings for criminals. Consoles, games and DVDs make up 62% of belongings stolen, according to claims figures from recent years†. Other favourites include cameras, computers, mobile phones and MP3 players and jewellery.
Security mark your property
You can buy kits that let you mark or etch your belongings – using your postcode with your house or flat number, or the first 3 letters of the name of your home, will help ensure that any property recovered can be returned to you. You can also register any items with a serial number at www.immobilise.com.
Keep your car safe from vandals
Tuck in your wing mirrors and put the aerial down, if you can. If you have to park on the street, make sure you choose a well-lit place. Secure your wheels using locking wheel nuts if possible.
Keep your car safe from thieves
If you've got a garage, try to get into the habit of using it. Not only does it reduce the risks, it also protects your car from winter weather. You should keep your car locked even if it's ni the garage. If you have to park outside, use a police-approved Park Mark® car park.
Remove your stereo if possible and don't leave valuables like laptops, SatNavs, MP3 players or bags in plain view. Don't leave the car running to warm up in very cold weather without staying with it. Make sure you take your keys out of the vehicle – even if you’re only out of the car to do something like pay for petrol.
Get an alarm or immobiliser fitted – and for older vehicles, a steering lock can help keep you secure. Have the windows etched with the registration.
Never store your car documents in the vehicle – and don't keep any other important documents or valuables in the glove box.
Did you know?
Burglars say one of the things they look for when they break in is your calendar. That means they’ll know when you'll be out of the house for any length of time – so they can come back for heavier, bulkier items..
Read our dedicated feature about security systems.
Read about Lorna and John Davies, Aviva customers, who's wedding day was nearly ruined by a burglary. Read their story.
Ensure you’re adequately covered with our home insurance.
*Based on FOI requests to 16 UK police forces on the number of reported incidences of Burglary in a Dwelling between 30 October and 5 November 2010.
**Figures from Aviva Claims Data 2002 - 2012
† Burglary offences recorded by the police, percentage change and rates by police force area, English region and Wales, 2010/11 and Strathclyde Police Annual Report 2011.