Crime Prevention Advice
Beat the burglar
Note: This leaflet has now been superseded by A Guide to Home Security, but is provided here for information.
Make your home more secure MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR THE BURGLAR
Most burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves. In two out of ten burglaries they don’t even have to use force – they get in through an open door or window.
Look at your home through the burglar’s eyes – are there places where they could break in unseen? Have you fitted strong locks on your doors and windows? Would they have to make a lot of noise by breaking glass?
Reduce the risk of burglary happening to you by making sure you’ve taken these simple precautions.
For a relatively small outlay you could make your home more secure and buy peace of mind into the bargain.
A third of burglars get in through a back window.
Easily visible locks may deter some thieves, because a window lock forces the thief to break the glass and risk attracting attention. DIY shops sell inexpensive key-operated locks to fit all kinds of window.
Fit key-operated window locks to all downstairs windows, those which can’t be seen from the street and easily accessible upstairs window, eg. Those above a flat roof or by a drainpipe.
Even small windows such as skylights or bathroom fanlights need locks – a thief can get through any gap larger than a human head.
Remember to remove keys from locked windows and to keep them out of sight in a safe place.
Louvre windows are especially vulnerable because the slats can be removed easily from the frame. Glue the slats in place with an epoxy resin, and fit a special louvre lock. Better still replace them with fixed glass.
If you are replacing windows – consider laminated glass.
As a last resort, consider fitting security grilles to vulnerable windows – many DIY shops now sell decorative wrought iron grilles.
Casement locks make it impossible to open windows without the correct key.
Fanlight locks have a metal bolt to secure the metal arm used to open and close the window.
The lock shown here locks the two windows together. A more discreet version is embedded into the wooden frame. Or there are devices to stop the window opening beyond a certain limit
Around the house
Good lighting can deter a thief.
Some exterior lights have an infra-red sensor that switches the light on for a few moments when it detects something in its range. Sensors can be bought separately to convert an existing outdoor light into a security one.
Look in when you’re out.
Most burglaries happen when a house or flat is empty, so:
Use time switches – available from DIY shops – to turn on lights, radios and other appliances when you’re out.
Don’t tempt the thief – keep all valuable items out of sight.
Don’t advertise your absence when you’re on holiday, or even when out at work or shopping. Most burglars will only tackle an empty house.
If you can, get a friend or neighbour to look after your home when you’re away, by collecting your post, drawing your curtains at night and generally making the place look lived in. And be prepared to do the same for them.
Visible burglar alarms make burglars think twice.
There are many systems on the market, ranging from cheaper DIY alarms to more sophisticated alarms costing hundreds of pounds. Easily installable ‘wire-free’ alarms are now available whereby sensors fitted around the house transmit radio detection signals to a control system. These systems usually take 3-4 hours to fit. Wired alarms are cheaper but take longer – around a day – to install.
Get specialist advice and a number of quotes.
Consult your insurance company for companies they recommend before deciding which best suits your needs. The system should meet BS4737 (professionally installed) or BS6707 (DIY).
Remember, a badly-fitted alarm can create problems in itself. Don’t install a DIY system unless you have the electrical knowledge and practical skill to do so.
IF YOU LIVE IN A FLAT
The most vulnerable part of your flat is likely to be the front door.
Replace a weak door. It should be as strong as the main entry door.
Fit hinge bolts which stop the door being pulled off its hinges.
Fit a steel strip to the door frame to strengthen it.
Consider having a door telephone entry system installed. Never ‘buzz’ open the door for strangers or hold the door open for someone who is arriving as you are leaving.
Never leave a spare key in a convenient hiding place such as under the doormat or in a flower pot – a thief will look there first.
If you’ve moved into a new house, consider changing the back and front door locks – other people may have keys that fit.
Fit a strong, lockable, high gate across the passage to stop a thief getting to the back of the house where they can work undisturbed. If you share an alleyway with a neighbour, ask their permission and for help with the cost.
GARAGES AND SHEDS
Often full of expensive tools ideal for breaking into the rest of the house – and often left unlocked.
Never leave a garage or garden shed unlocked, especially if it has a connecting door to the house – a thief could get in and work on the inner door in privacy.
Fit shed and garage doors with a strong padlock and make sure that they are solid enough not to be kicked in.
Lock ladders inside the garage or shed to stop a thief using them to reach inaccessible windows. If there is no room inside, chain or padlock them horizontally to a sturdy bracket on an outside wall.
GATES AND FENCES
Check for weak spots where a thief could get in – a low or sagging fence, or a back gate with weak lock.
A thorny hedge along the boundary can act as a deterrent. But make sure that the front of the house is still visible to passers-by so that a burglar can’t work unseen.
SECURE ALL DOORS
If your front and back doors are not secure, neither is your home.
Make sure the doors and frames are strong and in good condition. Doors should be made of solid core construction – 44mm thick.
Glass panels on or around the door are especially vulnerable, so replace them with laminated glass.
Fit back and front doors with a five-lever mortice deadlock – and use it.
Fit all exterior doors – top and bottom – with bolts. Remember to fit all security devices with strong screws or bolts.
Get specialist advice on fitting locks to patio doors.
Fit both french doors, top and bottom, with a security mortice lock and mortice bolt.
Patio doors should have special locks fitted top and bottom unless they already have a multi-locking system.
If you’re thinking of buying PVCu or metal framed windows or doors, make sure that they come with good built-in locks and a fitted chain, which can be very difficult and expensive to add retrospectively.
Look in your telephone directory for the names of local locksmiths who are members of the Master Locksmiths’ Association, or visit
Most front doors are fitted with a rim latch which locks automatically when the door is closed but can be opened again from the inside without a key.
For extra protection you should consider installing the following:
This locks automatically when the door is closed, but when locked externally with a key, cannot be opened from the inside.
These help you to speak with strangers at the door without letting them in.
Remember, if in doubt, keep them out
Buy a chain and use it every time you open the door.
Fit a five-lever deadlock about a third of the way up the door. One kitemarked to at least BS3621 should satisfy most insurance requirements.
A deadlock with a key, so a thief can’t smash a nearby panel to open the door from the inside; if the thief gets into the property through a window they can’t carry your property out through the door.
Check that the door hinges are sturdy and secured with strong, long screws.
For added security fit hinge bolts. These are inexpensive and help to reinforce the hinge side of a door against the use of force.
Enable you to identify callers before opening the door.
Never hang a spare key inside the letterbox – an obvious place that a thief will check.
Consider fitting a letterbox cage which prevents thieves from putting their hand through the letterbox and trying the locks from the inside.
Postcode your property
In only 9% of cases where something has been stolen is property returned.
Marked property can deter burglars because it’s harder for a thief to sell and can help the police to return it if found.
Mark items with indelible identification – showing your postcode and the number of your house or flat or the first two letters of its name – using a permanent etching tool or an ultra-violet marking pen. Only use UV marking when other methods would reduce the value of the object, because the mark can fade.
Take pictures of all valuable items like jewellery and silverware and write down the serial numbers of your TV, video, hi-fi, home computer and camera equipment, to help the police identify them should they be recovered. If you have many valuable items, fit a safe.
Ask your local police station for ‘postcoded property’ stickers to display in the front and back windows of your house.
Are you fully insured?
Insurance will relieve you of the financial worry of replacing stolen goods and many insurance companies offer reduced premiums for people with good home security. Ask the firm if it minds which systems you buy.
With all security, consideration must be given to the risk of fire and means of escape. Fit a smoke detector – a minimum of one per floor – installed to the manufacturer’s instructions to BS5446 Part 1.
Be a good neighbour
If you see anyone acting suspiciously in your neighbourhood, call the police. Join a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme – there are now over 130,000 in this country. Anyone can start up a Watch – call your police for details, or visit the Neighbourhood Watch website.
If you are burgled
A secure home will reduce the chance of you getting burgled. But, if you get home and notice signs of a break-in:
Don’t go in or call out – the intruder could still be inside.
Go to a neighbour’s to call the police.
Crime Prevention advice
All police forces have officers trained in crime prevention – contact your local station for advice.
Some forces can arrange surveys of your home or business premises and recommend security improvements. This is a popular service – if there’s a waiting list you may be sent an information pack so you can do your own survey.
For a copy of Your Practical Guide to Crime Prevention contact the Crime Prevention Officer at your local police station, click here to download it, or write to:
Crime Prevention Publicity
50 Queen Anne’s Gate
London SW1H 9AT
Last update: Friday, September 22, 2006