It can happen to any of us. Walking to your front door to realise someone’s already broken in and helped themselves to your prized possessions.
Unfortunately, we often deal with claims relating to home burglaries. But don’t worry. There are plenty of practical things you can do to keep your home safe and secure – all year round.
Lock up your property
Burglars are opportunists and look for the easy targets – most don't have to use force, they simply get in through an open door or window. So, shut and lock up your property – even if you’re going out for a short time.
Put good locks on your doors
Ideally, all external doors should have 3 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 they can be expensive to add on afterwards.
And don't forget door hinges – with good locks, they can be the first things to break, but hinge bolts add another level of security.
Swap glass for something else
Glass panels on doors can be a real weak spot. If you think glass could be a problem in your home, think about replacing it with laminated glass or using a film that sticks over the glass to make it harder to break.
Make sure you have key-operated window locks
These should be fitted on all accessible windows, especially downstairs, and remember to remove keys from sight. Glass patio 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
Use timers or leave lights on if you’re out and aren't going to get back before dark. It’s also a good idea to use a timer switch with a radio, though not with a TV in case it overheats.
Install a visible burglar alarm and outside lighting
Both can be a real deterrent, even a dummy alarm . Good lighting means there aren't any spots for a burglar to hide while they try to get in and motion-detector lights are especially effective.
Don’t let thieves go fishing
Never leave anything valuable – documents included – near doors, the letterbox or a window, as thieves can use coat hangers and fishing rods to hook them. And don't label your house keys, unless you want to do the thieves a favour.
Keep ladders and tools locked away
Most professional thieves don’t carry tools with them – they use yours – so keep sheds and outbuildings locked.
Keep your valuables out of sight
Where possible, keep valuables away from windows. Consoles, games and DVDs are often high on the list of criminals’ must-haves. Other favourites include cameras, computers, mobile phones, and jewellery.
Password protect your electronic devices
And keep your cyber-security systems up-to-date. Your laptop may be old, but that might not stop thieves from swiping the hard drive with all of your precious photos on it and holding it to ransom. Back everything up in a cloud, and don’t write your passwords down where they can be easily found.
Don’t store valuables in the bedroom
Thieves know that’s where most people keep their precious items. Secret them away in different spots around the home.
Security mark your property
You can buy kits to 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 increase the chance of your property being returned to you.
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 have a garage, get into the habit of using it. It reduces the risk of robbery and protects your car from winter weather. And keep the car locked even though it's in the garage.
If you must park outside, use a police-approved Park Mark® car park if possible.
Remove your stereo if you can and don't leave valuables in plain view. Last, but by no means least, never leave the car running to warm up in cold weather if you’re not in it. Thieves could easily jump in and drive away, so make sure you take your keys out of your vehicle – even if you’re just popping out to pay for petrol.
Get an alarm or immobiliser fitted
For older vehicles, a steering lock will do. Arrange for the windows to be etched with the car registration.
Never store your car documents inside the vehicle – and don't keep any other important documents or valuables in the glove box.
Watch out for winter
Criminals love winter. It gets dark early and Halloween and Bonfire Night provide perfect cover for the sound of breaking glass, especially when people leave the house to attend public firework displays.
Our stats show that burglary claims on Bonfire Night are 21% higher than usual. And malicious domestic damage increases by 150% during Halloween 1. And with Christmas also on the way, the chance that you’ll have high-value presents or an empty house is higher.
So stay extra vigilant in winter, check your contents cover will insure any high-value presents you’ve bought, and perhaps ask one of your neighbours to keep an eye on your home if you plan on being away for the festive period.
Don’t invite burglars back
Thieves say one of the things they look for when they break in is your calendar. By marking out when you’ll be away – on holiday, for instance – they know exactly when to come back for heavier, bulkier items.