Home security is the best way to reduce your chances
of being burgled. A lot of burglaries are spur of the
moment, as a burglar may see an open window or other
easy point of entry and take their chance.
When you go out, always lock the door and close
the windows – even if you are just going out for a
Window locks, especially on older windows, will
help stop people getting in (and remember, a burglar
is less likely to break in if they have to smash a
If you have deadlocks, use them. They make it
harder for a thief to get out again. But don’t leave
the key near the door, or in an obvious place.
Don’t leave spare keys outside, or in a garage or
shed, and put car keys or garage keys out of sight
in the house.
Use timers for lights and radios if you need to
be away from home overnight. They will create the
impression that someone is in.
Visible burglar alarms, good lighting, and
carefully directed and limited security lighting can
act as deterrents. But make sure that lights don’t
disturb your neighbours, and that alarms turn off
after 20 minutes.
Fences at the back of the house may make this
area more secure, but walls and solid fencing may
let a thief break in without being seen. A good
compromise is chain-link fencing, or trellises with
Fitting a ‘spy hole’ allows you to see who is at
the door. Having a door chain means you can open the
door a little way to talk to them.
Make sure that any improvements you
make don’t stop you from getting out of your house as
quickly as possible if there is a fire.
Who can help you do this?
If you rent your house or flat, your landlord has
some responsibility towards its security. If your
home is not secure, ask the landlord if they will
make necessary improvements. It will be cheaper for
them to fit window locks than to mend a broken
If you live in social housing, or in a block of
rented flats, forming a tenants’ association might
make security easier.
Spending money on security measures can seem
daunting, but it is a good investment, will last a
long time and can add value to your property.
Contact your council or local police for help.
They may be able to advise you on the best measures
to protect your property, and may even have grants
to help cover the cost.
There are laws (planning regulations) which
govern many of the changes you can make to the
outside of your home, including building walls and
fences. However, you do not need to apply for
planning permission for everything.
Unless you live in a listed building, or your
council has removed your ‘permitted development
rights’ (your rights to carry out limited
development without applying for planning
permission), you can build a fence or boundary wall
up to one metre high where it will be next to a road
or footpath, or up to 2 metres high elsewhere. These
height limits would include, as a part of the wall
or fence, any barbed or razor wire you put up.
If you use barbed or razor wire, under the
Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 you may take
reasonable precautions to prevent injury to other
people caused by dangers on your property. If you
are building a wall on the boundary with your
neighbour, you may need your neighbour’s permission
(under the Party Wall Act). If you live somewhere,
such as an estate, where there are restrictions in
force, you may need to get special permission.
For more information:
If you are not sure whether you need to apply for
planning permission, you should contact the planning
department of your council. You can get an explanatory
� A Guide for Householders‘ from the Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) Free Literature on 0870 122
You can find more information about the planning
system, including the control of small-scale development
and permitted development rights, from the Planning
Inspectorate’s “Planning Portal”, at www.planningportal.gov.uk
You can also get the following Home Office leaflets:
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Personal safety at home
Securing your property will make you safer in your
home, and make your home and your belongings safer while
you are out.
Here are some guidelines for dealing with different
situations you may find yourself in:
If you think you have an intruder, only you can
decide how to deal with the situation. Think about
what you might do now � you might not be thinking
clearly in a real incident.
You may respond differently if you are alone in
the house, or if there are other people there.
You could make a noise and hope it puts them off,
or keep quiet and hope they don’t come into your
You could keep a phone in your bedroom so you can
raise the alarm. This may also make you feel safer.
It is generally best not to challenge an
If you come home and find a broken window or
lights on, and you think there may be a burglar
inside, you may think it best not to go into the
Go to a neighbour’s house and call the police, or
ring the doorbell � someone who should be in the
house will come to the door, whereas intruders are
likely to run away.
Abusive phone calls
If you get an abusive or threatening phone call,
do not respond to it. The caller wants a strong
reaction from you.
Put the receiver next to the phone and move away.
Return some minutes later and hang up.
You may want to make a record of when you receive
calls, so you can see if there is a pattern.
Dialling 1471 may help you see what number the
call came from. Some phone companies offer a service
which blocks calls from people who have withheld
At night, unplug your phone or turn the ring off,
so that you are not disturbed.
Do not give your name or number when you answer
If you are receiving many abusive calls, contact
your phone company or the police for help.
Most people who come to your door will be genuine
callers. But it’s best to make sure.
Fitting a door chain or spy hole will help you
check who the caller is.
If you were not expecting someone to call, a
genuine caller will not mind waiting outside while
you contact their company. Find the phone number in
the phone book, or look on your last bill.
Most companies have a password scheme.
If you let someone into your home, even if it is
someone you know, and you become uncomfortable, make
excuses and leave. Go to a neighbour’s house, or ask
a friend to come back with you.
The law on self-defence
Under the law you are entitled to use reasonable
force in self-defence or to protect another person
or your property.
The force that it is reasonable to use in any
situation will depend on the threat that you are
facing. For example, the level of force that you can
use to defend your life is greater than the force
you can use to defend your property.
What ‘reasonable force’ is will depend on the
circumstances of each case and is something that
only the courts can decide. This does not mean that
if you injure a criminal while defending yourself or
your property you will necessarily face criminal
charges. But if the criminal complains that you have
used unreasonable force, the police must
In the heat of the moment and in a panic it may
be hard for you to assess the level of danger that
you face. However, if charges are brought against
you, the courts take account of what was reasonable
for you in those circumstances � they will make
some allowances for ‘heat of the moment’ panic.
The courts believe that if you did only what you
honestly and instinctively thought necessary to
prevent a crime, that would be strong evidence that
you used only reasonable force. Generally, the
courts use common sense and take account of what it
is like to be faced with a violent or possibly
The law does not allow you to retaliate.
Punishing criminals is a matter for the courts and
you must not take the law into your own hands by
trying to punish an offender for a crime committed
against you, your friends, or your family.
As a student you will probably live in shared
housing, either in halls or in a shared house. Following
the advice on personal safety and property will help
keep you safer. These points may also help:
In halls, be careful about locking your door,
even if you are just going down the corridor.
Make sure that main entrance doors close behind
you, and don’t let other people in with you.
In a shared house, be careful to follow the
security advice given earlier about protecting your
property. Your landlord should be able to help.
Be aware that you are likely to have more
electronic goods (stereos, computers and so on) than
many households. You should think about getting
insurance to cover these in case they are stolen.
Over Christmas and summer holidays, when it is
likely that the house will be empty for a long time,
see if anyone will be around to keep an eye on
things, and use the security advice earlier in the
section. This is particularly important if you live
in a student area.
Older people may feel more vulnerable to some crimes,
but are actually less likely to become victims. A few
simple steps can also help reduce your risk of crime.
Think about getting a personal alarm to use if
you trip or fall at home.
Don’t keep large amounts of cash at home � use
a bank account instead.
Look after your pension book carefully.
Ask your landlord to fit door chains and spy
holes, or ask the council to help you if you own
Many councils have security schemes that are
aimed at older or more vulnerable people. You could
ask them for advice.
See also the section on bogus
For more information:
Phone the Age Concern information line on 0800 00 99
66 or visit the Age
You can also get copies of the Home Office leaflet ‘How
to beat the bogus caller‘
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Protecting your property
Computers are a popular item to steal. Making sure
your home is secure will help guard against this, but
there are some extra steps you could take.
Keep your computer in a locked cabinet, or lock
the door to the room you keep it in to make it
harder to steal.
Use security screws and bolts to make it harder
for people without the correct tool to open the
casing to steal parts (but check with the
manufacturer that this does not affect any
Use passwords, make back-up copies on disk and
‘watermark’ documents. This will help protect your
copyright and will mean you have a copy of your work
if the computer is stolen.
Be very careful with financial information. For
example, don’t send your bank details in an e-mail.
If you are ordering goods over the internet, make
sure the company has a secure server.
If you need to carry a laptop computer with you,
try to be discreet about it. Many laptops have
distinctive bags, so try to put it in something
else, and follow other personal security advice. It
may also be useful to carry disks in a different
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