Statistics show that domestic burglaries are on the increase, but many of these break-ins need not have occurred if just a few basic security measures had been taken. It is easy to prevent opportunist thieves from being tempted by the sight of open windows and doors by always being sure to close them both at night and even when you go out for a short time during the day. Even the most determined burglar who sets out with a crowbar to force an entry can be thwarted by sturdy locks, bolts and security floodlights. As well as giving peace of mind, a well-secured home can save money on insurance premiums and, more importantly, the anguish of losing your valued possessions.
Outside the house
Check that garden gates at the rear of the house close firmly, and can be secured if you go away for long periods. A garden fence with gaping holes can provide a discreet entry for a burglar, so be sure to keep this in good repair. Another frequent entry point is a garage, if attached to a house; this can allow a thief to force a door into the house unseen. Always fit secure locks to garage doors to minimize the risk of this happening. Padlock a garden shed if you have one in order to prevent tools from being stolen or used to gain entry to your home.
Remember that high shrubs and hedges at the front of your house may give privacy but can also screen a burglar from the street or neighbors. Large trees situated very close to a flat roof or window can also give an easy access route. Fit a passive infra-red (PIR) floodlight to the front and back of the house. This will automatically switch on if activated by a passer by, making a pleasant welcome for a visitor but a strong deterrent for intruders. Choose one that has a variable light duration and an adjustable sensor for covering large or small areas. A hell box is another good deterrent; even a false one can deter an opportunist thief.
A spy-hole fitted in the front door discreetly lets people outside know that you can observe their movements while you are still secure behind the door. Always use the spy-hole before opening the door, and never open it unless you are sure of the identity of the person.
On a front door, replace a standard `night latch’ with a 5-lever mortise lock that cannot he opened without the key, even if the burglar can reach it via a broken pane of glass in the door. Remember, however, that locks are only as strong as the door that they are on, so choose a solid door and hinges so that both the opening and the hinged side will withstand an attempted forced entry. If you are in doubt, insert hinge bolts on the hinge side of the door. These fit into corresponding holes in the door frame, providing extra strength and preventing the door from being forced off its hinges. Even if the door does eventually give way, there is a good chance that the noise created by the burglar will have attracted someone’s attention.
Fit a door chain or bar restraint to the front door. These both work in the same way by restricting the amount by which a door can be opened, giving you valuable time to assess the validity of a caller. A bar restraint is stronger than a chain, as it consists of a solid metal bar. Both require the door to be closed for the bar or chain to be released before the door can be opened to its full extent. A door chain or bar restraint will allow you to see who is calling at the door without the risk of the door being burst open.
Fit French windows and casement doors with additional rack bolts at the top and bottom, which slide into the frame. Keep the key out of sight of intruders, but where it can be found by you and all the other members of the family in an emergency.
Insurance companies now demand key operated window locks are install to all the windows in a house, and these do contribute greatly to security. When buying window locks, however, check that they are suitable for the windows to which you intend to fit them. Measure the window frames before you go to buy, and check that they will accommodate the type of locks that you have in mind. In the case of very narrow frames, use a surface-fitted kick.
Sash windows can be fitted with dual screws, where a bolt passes through the inner frame into the outer frame to hold the 2 sections together; or with surface fitted bolts that fit on the upper sashes and allow a small gap for penetration. Replace existing handles with lockable ones that, once locked, cannot be re-opened without the key. Lockable window handles are useful for keeping children in and burglars out.
A length of wooden dowel cut to the exact length to fit inside the bottom track of a patio door can wedge it closed. Similarly, if a dowel is placed vertically in the side runner of a sash window, it cannot be opened. Sink a screw into the wood frame beside a handle to prevent it from being opened. Stay-bars on casement windows can be secured by sinking a screw through a hole into the wooden frame.
When you are out
Light sensitive fittings on interior and exterior lights sense when it is growing dark and turn on automatically. Time switches are also an excellent idea. These can be used to operate a number of appliances, making it appear as if the house is inhabited, televisions and radios create enough noise to be convincing. Electronic curtain controllers are also available, to close curtains automatically at a pre-set time. This will give the impression that the house is occupied.
Ultra-violet pens are easy to use, and leave an invisible mark that will only show when placed under an ulna-violet light. Engraving scribers, ranging from simple carbide or diamond-tipped pens to electric engraving tools can be used to scratch a postcode, telephone number or other identifiable code. Use stencils with an engraver to give a near, legible result. Another option is an etching kit, which is ideal for marking glass objects. Stencil transfers mask of fthe security code, and acid brushed over the surface etches the code. Engraving scribers are an effective and easy method for marking hi-fi equipment.
Another safety measure is the sock safe. This looks just like an ordinary socket, but is large enough to hold cash and jewelry in the box behind it.
If you return home to find signs of a break-in, do not enter but go straight to a neighbor’s house to telephone the police. If you hear an intruder in the house or trying to break in, put on the lights and make a noise to alert them to the fact that you are there. If you are upstairs, do not go downstairs to investigate but telephone the police from your bedroom if possible.