Burglary is one of the fastest-growing types of crime. To minimize your risk as a target, check out the security of your building, and examine the security habits (or lack of them) of all the occupants.
Many householders make life easy for the would-be burglar by such simple oversights as leaving windows open, and doors unlocked, or by advertising the fact that the house is empty.
Don’t let your home look a likely bet for the opportunist thief.
What to Fit
These practical measures will ensure that your property is secure whether you are at home or not, and will satisfy household insurance companies.
To improve the security of uPVC windows and doors, seek advice from the manufacturer or a locksmith.
These should be fitted with a mortise lock meeting the requirements of British Standard BS 3621. For daytime security when you’re in, and extra security at other times, add a cylinder rim lock (also made to BS 3621) with automatic or key-operated deadlocking.
Add hinge bolts to the hinged edge to prevent the door being forced. Fit a door viewer (solid doors only), a door chain, or a door limiter (all available from hardware stores), so you can check the identity of callers.
Fit toughened or laminated glass in place of ordinary glass in all glazed doors and side panes.
Fit a mortise sash lock made to BS 3621. This combines the functions of lock and latch, allowing the door to be opened without the need for a key when you’re in.
Alternatively, fit a latch and separate BS 3621 mortise lock.
Sliding Patio Doors
Fit key-operated surface-mounted patio door locks to wooden doors at top and bottom, plus an anti-lift device at the top of the frame if the doors were not fitted with one originally.
Fit a surface-mounted bolt or a concealed mortise rack bolt to the top and bottom of each door, so the bolt passes through a hole in the top and bottom of the frame.
Fit a mortise sash lock made to BS 3621 to the door that opens first, and add hinge bolts to the hinged edge of each door to prevent a burglar punching out the exposed hinge pins and lifting out the doors.
A wide range of locks is available for wooden windows, and a smaller selection for metal ones. Most are surface-mounted, making them quick and easy to install.
Unfortunately, many are supplied with screws that are too short to make a secure fixing, leaving the window prone to forcing. Buy the longest possible fixing screws as extras, if necessary.
The best locks for hinged wooden windows lock automatically as the window is closed and need a key to open them. Fit two locks on windows over about 1 m (3 ft 3 in) high.
The best locks for sliding sash windows have dual screws, which pass through holes drilled through the top of the lower sash and the bottom of the upper one. Fit two to each window, close to the sides of the sashes.
Keep keys for window locks nearby, but invisible from outside the house, so locked windows can be opened quickly, especially in the event of a fire. Make sure everyone sleeping in your home knows where they are kept.
Sheds, garages, and other outbuildings are likely to contain tools and ladders, which a burglar could use to gain easier entry to the house. They may also contain valuable power tools and garden equipment worth stealing.
Strengthen hinged doors with hinge bolts, a surface-mounted bolt inside the door that closes first, and a five-lever mortise lock to the meeting edge of the doors. Secure up-and-over doors with a floor-mounted ground lock.
Fit sheds and greenhouses with a stout hasp, staple, and padlock. Replace vulnerable glass with unbreakable polycarbonate sheeting.
Visible burglar alarms make burglars think twice, and even a dummy alarm box may prove an inexpensive deterrent. Check your insurer’s preference before deciding between professional or DIY installation, and ask whether they stipulate regular servicing.
A professionally installed wired system linked to a 24-hour monitoring station is the most secure option, but also the most expensive. It should meet the requirements of British Standard BS 4737.
There are two standards for DIY systems � BS 6707 (wired systems) and BS 6799 (wireless systems). Don’t install a DIY system unless you have the knowledge and practical skill. If fitted badly, it could trigger endless nuisance alarms.
Extra Measures For High-Risk Areas
Add door and frame reinforcements to prevent the lock from being forced.
These are metal plates that are fixed to both faces of the door over the position of the mortise lock, and metal strips on the frame that prevent the lock keeper from being forced. All these are available from locksmiths.
Add hinge bolts, security glazing, and door and frame reinforcement. Fit surface-mounted bolts or concealed mortise rack bolts for extra security when you are out and at night.
Sliding patio doors
Consider having metal security grilles fitted.
Good Security Habits
Even the best security equipment in the world is no good if you forget to use it. Be security-conscious at all times.
- Close (and lock if you can) all windows including top ventilators when you go out. Shut windows and doors at the front of the house when you are upstairs, in the back garden, or out of earshot.
- Lock and bolt side and back doors and remove the keys from the locks.
- Check that gates are closed and bolted, that outbuildings are secure and that ladders are under cover or chained up.
- Move tempting portable valuables out of sight, and draw the curtains in any room containing valuable home entertainment equipment – the favourite target of every burglar.
- Set the burglar alarm if you have one.
- Lock the front door and check that the lock is fully engaged. Make sure key-operated rim locks are deadlocked.
- Don’t leave spare keys hidden anywhere near the front door. Leave spare keys with a neighbour you can trust, but don’t put your house name or number on the key tag.
- If you lose your front door key, get the lock changed immediately.
- Identify callers before opening your front door, using a door viewer or door chain, and always ask unknown callers to produce identification before letting them in. Don’t let small children open the front door.
- If you are going out in the evening, draw curtains and leave lights on and a radio playing, to give the impression that the house is occupied.
- Use a security marker to identify valuable items in the house with your postcode and house number (or the first two letters of its name), and photograph items you cannot mark.