Household and Property


Crime Prevention


Your Practical Guide To Crime Prevention – Household and Property


Your Home

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.

Basic tips:

  • When you go out, always lock the door and close
    the windows – even if you are just going out for a
    short time.

  • 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
    prickly shrubs.

  • 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.

Home owners:

  • 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.

Planning constraints.

  • 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
booklet, ‘Planning
� 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

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

Interrupting burglars

  • 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
    their number.

  • 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
    the phone.

  • If you are receiving many abusive calls, contact
    your phone company or the police for help.

Bogus callers

  • 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
    violent criminal.

  • 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

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
    your home.

  • 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
Concern website

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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Last update:  15/09/03

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