Daniel Killick, Manager of the Kew branch of London letting and estate agency Chestertons, shares his ten top tips on making your home extra safe.
O watchful night!
CCTV is an increasingly popular security feature both inside and outside our homes. Externally it can be an effective visual deterrent for opportunist thieves on the lookout for empty homes, and a useful way of checking that all is well at home if you have a system that allows you to view the footage remotely. If you do choose to go down this route, it’s definitely worth doing your homework beforehand as cameras facing roads, pavements or other public spaces, as well as neighbouring properties, can be in breach of the Data Protection Act unless express consent is given.
Alarm bells ring, are you listening?
A burglar alarm system can be the difference between some minor repairs to broken locks on doors and windows and a few snatched items, and a thoroughly professional clear-out job if intruders are given the time they need to find valuable items. If you have an alarm, don’t forget to set it and let a trusted neighbour know you are going to be away. If your trusted neighbour is also a keyholder, make sure they know the code so they don’t trip the alarm themselves, or so they can reset the system in case of a false alarm – there’s nothing more annoying for people than an alarm ringing incessantly, and it’s also akin to the boy who cried wolf should it ever go off in earnest.
While neighbours watch their locks at night
Close-knit neighbourhoods look out for each other, and also experience lower burglary rates. Consider joining or starting a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, or agree with neighbours to keep an eye on each other’s properties during holiday periods. Simple tactics like moving piles of unopened post away from the door, drawing curtains at night and putting the bins out/taking them in again make it look like business as usual. If your neighbours are away at the same time as you, you could share the cost of a house-sitter or empty property management service. Reputable lettings and property management companies such as Chestertons can often offer such a service, or at least refer you to someone who can.
Take a leaf out of the Home Alone manual
A house is a lot less likely to be a target for a burglary if it looks occupied. If you are going away, leave a light on, or fit timer switches for the lights to come on at different times in the day. Other devices like your radio or television may also have similar features, particularly if you have a smart or remote control system installed.
While all through the house...
Make sure your windows are fitted with good secure locks. Forty percent of household burglaries are not through forced entry, meaning intruders have entered through an open door or window. Make sure deadbolts or mortice locks are applied, lockable internal doors are also secured, and remove keys that may reside in locks on the inside of the doors or windows while you are at home. Similarly, make sure that keys are kept away from and out of sight of doors and windows, to remove any temptation or opportunities for smash-happy burglars, or those that might employ a fishing rod to hook house or car keys through the letter box.
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
Expensive gadgets, jewellery and sports equipment such as bikes are like sitting ducks in an empty house, so keep them locked up if you can. Take portable electricals and devices with you, or hide them at home. If you have a safe, make sure you lock away jewellery, important documents including wills, cash, house deeds, passports, credit cards or other valuables or sentimental items not easily replaced. These should also be safeguarded from fire or flood damage, too.
A guiding light shines
Powerful outdoor lighting can be your biggest ally when it comes to home security. A poorly-lit garden, driveway or path makes life easy for thieves, who are far less likely to be seen by neighbours or passers-by. Motion-activated lights installed to the side of or above all main doors, that draw attention from neighbours, will make it much harder for intruders to snoop around, look through windows and gain entry to your house. Make sure they are out of reach of vandalism and there are no blind spots from where intruders can gain access to your home.
Driving home for Christmas?
If you’re not taking your car with you, make sure it is parked securely, and/or a neighbour has eyes on it. Don’t leave spare keys inside a vehicle, or car keys in plain sight inside the house – if you do get burgled you don’t want the thieves making off with your property in your own car! If you’re parking away from home, at a station or airport, then the same rule applies. Also don’t save your address under the “home” tag on SatNav systems, as thieves have been known to steal cars and navigate to your home this way, then use your spare key to get inside.
Glad tidings of comfort and joy
It’s great that you’re going to visit family/the Caribbean for Christmas, but remember, criminals are well versed at hacking or monitoring social media channels for people posting about their holiday plans online. If you do do this, you are merely broadcasting the fact that your house is standing empty, so avoid this if you can. Only share with friends or family online, never publically.
God rest ye, merry gentlemen
Don’t stress obsessively about home security at Christmas. If you follow the above tips, have a friend or neighbour looking out for you then you should be able to get away without worrying. And always make sure that insurance policies are adequate and up to date, so if the worst does happen you won’t be left out of pocket from the ordeal.
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