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 Inside Out - South East: Monday 22 September, 2003


Safe as houses - beat the burglar and protect your dream home

Fear of crime is soaring so how do you protect yourself and your property? And what are the telltale signs of an easy-to-burgle house? Inside Out offers out our top tips.

An Englishman's home is his castle but what do you do when crime levels are soaring and you want to protect yourself from the burglars?

Burglary is a despicable crime. It's bad enough when a thief robs you of your valuable possessions but the emotional shock of having your property invaded can be deeply upsetting.

Inside Out investigates how you can protect your home from the most cunning of crooks.

No Place Like Home

Our homes should be a retreat from the stresses and strains of the world, a place to put your feet up.

House patio
How safe is your house?

Current crime levels mean that it's hard to feel safe in our own houses.

But look at the statistics and you'll see a big difference between reality and perception of crime.

Burglary in Kent was down 31% last year whilst detection rates in Sussex are up by 24%. Nevertheless many southerners see crime all around them.

So what can be done to make them feel more secure and to prevent any escalation of the burglary statistics?

Safe As Houses

First of all, there's some basic precautions that house owners can take to discourage burglars.


When away from home

Make sure your home looks like someone is living in it.

Don't close your curtains – in daytime this shows the house is empty.

Think about getting automatic time-switches to turn your lights on and off.

Fit mortise locks or bolts to all outside doors, and locks to all downstairs or easily accessible windows.

Cancel any milk or newspaper deliveries if you're away on holiday

Don't leave valuables, like your TV, hi-fi or video, where people can see them through windows.

Mark your property. You can get easy-to-use property marking kits from stationers and DIY stores.

Easily visible locks may deter some thieves.

DIY shops sell inexpensive key-operated locks.

If you are replacing windows – consider laminated glass.

As a last resort, consider fitting security grilles to vulnerable windows

Burglary is often an opportunist crime. A burglar will select a target because it offers him the best opportunity to carry out his crime undetected and with the fewest obstacles in his way.

A building that looks unoccupied and insecure is far more likely to be targeted than a properly which is secured.

Kent Police offer the following advice:

  • make it as hard as possible for the burglar to get into your property;
  • if you're away or on holiday, make the house look like you're still living in it;
  • mark valuable possessions with an ultra-violet pen so they can be traced back to you if police recover them.

You can also take other precautions.
A third of burglars get in through a back window.

Fit window locks to all downstairs windows, and to easily accessible upstairs windows.

Louvre windows are particularly vulnerable because the slats can be removed easily from the frame.

Remove ladders that can be used to break into upstairs rooms.

Get A Gadget

After addressing the basics, you could go one step further and buy a crime-busting hi-tech gadget.

These days the security marketplace is awash with everything from electronic gates to surveillance cameras and infra-red detector systems.

But the more sophisticated security devices don't come cheap. The cost of installing CCTV is between £500 and £10,000 whilst steel doors will set you back at least £2,000.

Smokecloak test
Smokecloak makes it impossible for the burglar to see what he's doing

But if you don't want to build a moat or six foot thick walls with large beams around your house, what are the other options?

A new fangled smoke machine called a Smokecloak could be the answer to your prayers.

The idea is to scare the burglar away or make his job very difficult by belching out thick, black smoke.

There's only one drawback - Smokecloak alarms cost upwards of £1,200.

For traditionalists who don't fancy the Smokecloak, there's also the bog-standard home alarm ranging from small door devices to the full British Standard approved alarm system.

Bob The Burglar

Bob Turney is an ex-career burglar who spent 18 years on and off in and out of prison.

Hand on gate
This gate lock is easy to open from the other side, making life easy for burglars

Breaking and entering used to be his full time occupation.

Today he's a reformed character, and works as a probation officer.

Bob knows just how to pick a house which has low level security.

When he worked as a burglar, he'd look out for signs of easy to break into property including:

  • single double glazing
  • no alarm or security system
  • garden tools or wood, bricks and other objects lying around which can be used to force entry
  • weak and flimsy doors and windows

Bob the Burglar's top tips are simple - be sensible and security conscious. As the slogan says, 'Remove the Opportunity - Prevent the Burglary'.

Tell-Tale Signs

The burglar will case your property for tell-tale signs that you are away and evidence that he won't be disturbed in the course of his work.

If you can take measures that tell the burglar that this building is too difficult or risky a target, he will hopefully move on.

It's best to avoid the following:

  • side gates open and easily breached
  • accessible windows
  • open ladders left out allowing access to windows
  • untrimmed hedges preventing natural surveillanc

Each of these makes access to the building far simpler and is an indication to the prospective burglar that it's worth a second look.

Holiday Security

Going away on holiday presents yet more risks for home owners so it's best to play safe.

Play safe - crack down on crime with an alarm system

It's common-sense but don't draw attention to the house being empty.

Burglars look out for milk bottles on the doorstep, newspapers and mail in the letter box, unlit houses after dark and closed windows in very hot weather.

Make it look as though your house is occupied. You could install timers which switch lights on and off automatically.

Be a good neighbour. Check on each other's houses when you're away.

Collect your neighbour's post and even park your car on their drive when they're holidaying.

A Safe Bet

At the end of the day the best chance of cracking down on burglary is to take preventative action.

Anything that forces the burglar to take more time to commit the crime, make more noise or make him look more conspicuous while committing the crime is a good starting point.

In today's world everyone needs a security system, and then we can rest easy that we have less chance of being a victim of crime.

See also ...

BBC: Crime Support

On the rest of the web
Neighbourhood Watch
Victim Support
Kent Police
Home Office
Age Concern - Crime Prevention
Police Law - Preventing Burglary
Crime Reduction

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