We live in larger-than-average houses for the Harrow area – so burglars are encouraged to take higher risks to obtain a higher perceived reward. In addition, many of our houses are set well apart, surrounded by high hedges and greenery – offering a perfect hiding place for a mugger or a burglar lying in wait for your return at night. To counteract these weaknesses in our security, the police recommend a number of courses of action, including the following:-
1. Assess your property for accessibility: if you could get in easily after going out and forgetting your keys – so could a burglar. Present a house that offers no opportunity for entry.
2. Could your shrubbery be pruned back waist-high, so that the house is in full view and there are no secret hiding places?
3. Is your side gate kept visibly locked with a high quality ‘close shackle’ padlock at the front - and heavy duty bolts behind? Check the height of the side door – if it looks easy to sprint over the top – especially with the help of a well-placed wheelie bin - consider adding an 18” trellis and grow something thorny over it, like roses, to deter the more athletic intruder. Side and back garden fences could also be trellissed, whilst ‘soft fruit’ bushes at ground level are a perfect natural ‘barbed wire’ - without the hassle of planning permission and warning signs.
4. What about lighting at the front, side and rear of your house? You don’t have to be lit up like a Christmas tree or endure security lights flashing on every time a cat creeps past. Instead, install low energy ‘dusk to dawn’ lighting which shadows intruders better than those blinding, high-wattage lights.
5. Who lives in the hallway of their house? No-one. So don’t just leave the hall light on when you go out – time-switch a living room and even a bedroom light to come on, to make the house look occupied. Leave on a TV or radio for extra signs of life. And put up a ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign – even if you don’t have a dog! Invest in a doorbell that incorporated the sound of a barking dog – nothing is more offputting for a burglar.
6. Unlocked garden sheds and outside store cupboards are an open invitation to thieves – both for valuable garden equipment and for tools with which they can force entry. Once again, a ‘close shackle’ padlock (from £35–£60 at good locksmiths) will deter all but the most determined of burglars. Lock away ladders, power tools and mowers in your shed or store, or buy ‘ground anchors’ for large equipment and garden statues.
7. Windows need to be lockable – even old windows can have locks fitted to them. Don’t leave keys in locks or on the windowsill. Close all windows completely when going out – even on top floors. Ask glaziers to check that your UVPC windows cannot be lifted out from the putty. Bar small, ground floor toilet/cloakroom windows – small ‘apprentices’ have been known to slip through. Fit locks and bolts to your back patio doors and keep keys to them well out of sight. Don’t leave car keys on the hall table – they can easily be retrieved through a letter box.
8. Your front door is your main barrier to the house so install two good quality British Standard locks, a reasonable distance apart, to prevent wear and tear. Don’t leave keys in full view of the front door or in boxes or tins near windows. Burglars know where to look for them. Install a burglar alarm and if you have one, lock internal doors when you go out to slow an intruder’s exit. If you have no alarm, leave doors open or he’ll have plenty of time to smash every one to gain access to and from your rooms before he leaves.
9. Install a safe if you keep valuables in the house. Otherwise, hide jewellery etc. in less obvious places than bedside drawers and dressing tables. Minimise loss by taking out a few treasured valuables and hiding them somewhere less obvious, like in the freezer or in the first aid cabinet. The same applies to cash. Take photos of valuable jewellery or furniture to aid identification if found after a burglary.
10. Most Importantly – Make Friends With Your Neighbours And Keep An Eye On Each Others’ Properties. If You See Anything Suspicious, Dial 999 immediately.