I have never suffered a burglary in my own home but I have on two occasions in my life witnessed the sad aftermath of a burglary.
On one occasion I was with my girlfriend when we returned to her home to find that she had been burgled. It was truly horrible. As we opened the door we found things strewn on the floor just inside the hallway. On further investigation we found that her kitchen window had been forced open. The robber had searched all through her house, throwing things in all directions. In her bedroom he had gone through her wardrobe and found her small jewellery box which he had then emptied. Gone were some items of jewellery passed down from her great grandmother. If he had taken the colour TV it would not have been a problem as a new one could have been bought. Her jewellery had been in her family for over 100 years and was irreplaceable. She was utterly distraught. We both found the situation very upsetting.
The other occasion was my late Aunt, who phoned me one morning to say that some 'intruders' had been there in the night. I immediately drove over to see her and arrived just as the police were leaving. My aunt was 80 years old and not really all that with it. Her house was a shambles at the best of times and she had found it difficult to keep the place clean, let alone secure. The police said there was not much they could do, as my Aunt was not sure what was missing, although it was obvious that a lot had been taken. There were light brown shadows on the walls where pictures had previously hung and inside the china cabinet, where there had previously been various old family relics, the only thing now visible in their place, was a few little circles in the dust. A number of miniature portraits of my ancestors were now missing, together with a lot of other things, most of which I didn't know what they were or what they looked like.
Ever since witnessing the above very sorry events, I have always taken precautions to reduce the chance of ever being robbed. I have put some notes together below to give you some ideas that might be useful.
Have a burglar alarm and use it
This is the most obvious simple precaution to take and most modern houses do have a burglar alarm fitted. However, I am amazed when I speak to my friends and almost all of them confirm that they have an alarm but they don't bother to use it.
This seems totally illogical. Everyone has a front door lock and everyone locks the door when they leave but many of them don't bother setting their burglar alarm!
In my house I have an extensive burglar alarm system. I have movement sensors all through the house, including in the garage, and in addition I also have fire detectors in every room. Before I leave the house, I double check the doors and windows, set the alarm and I then lock the door on my way out. It takes about 1 minute of my time but I am certain that it is time well spent.
Set the burglar alarm at night
A lot of burglaries happen at night time. The typical scenario is that the home owners are asleep upstairs and the burglar breaks in downstairs and removes anything he can find.
You may not be aware but in a two story house, most burglar alarm systems have a night time mode. You can set this before you go to bed and then all the sensors downstairs will be live but the sensors upstairs will be inactive. If a burglar breaks in downstairs, the alarm will go off shattering the silence of the night. Hopefully the burglar will quickly vacate the building before you have even got out of bed.
Every night, before I go to bed, I take a quick walk around the house and I check all the doors and windows. I then set the alarm and go to bed feeling very secure.
Be careful answering your door bell
Most burglars are going to be very shy. They do not want to meet anyone and if there is any trouble they will run. They will only use violence as a last resort. However there are a small number of burglars (probably a very very small number) who may just knock on your front door, and when you open it, they will violently push their way into your house and over power you. If you get a knock on your door and you are unsure, don't open it.
It is well worth having a spy hole in the door so you can see someone before you unlock the door. A spy hole is incredibly cheap and easy to install but if you are happy to spend a bit more money then install a camera and monitor system (CCTV).
Another safe alternative, if possible, is to open an upstairs window and speak to the caller from there.
Close Circuit Television used to be very expensive but over the years the cost has steadily decreased and is now very cheap. In addition, with the advent of the internet, it is now possible to stream camera pictures live to your phone. For security applications there are endless possibilities. A simple CCTV camera at your front door, connected to a monitor inside, is very straight forward. A more comprehensive system could have cameras all around your garden and all through your house. I won't cover all the possibilities here but instead I recommend that you search the internet for 'cctv security systems'.
Burglars feel more comfortable in dark places where they are less likely to be seen. There are lots of choices when considering security lighting. You can have lights that just turn on when movement is sensed or you can have lights that automatically turn on when it is dark and stay on all night. Another possibility is to have a timer that just turns the light on late at night and turns it off in the early morning. With modern low energy lighting the electricity used up is very small and having a bit of light outside is often useful.
Don't have spare keys near the front door
One possible way for a burglar to break in, is to use your keys. This sounds a bit obvious however there have been cases where a burglar with a fishing rod and a magnet has poked the rod through the letter box in the door and lifted the keys from a key rack. It is good to keep your keys in one place but don't have them anywhere near your front door.
Secure locks on windows
Most modern windows have reasonably secure locks but if you have old windows it may be worth adding extra security. At night time make sure all windows are shut and locked. A burglar might break a glass pane and then extend his hand inside and attempt to release the window catch. Keeping the window locked is an extra barrier that helps to make it more difficult for a potential burglar.
Regarding having the windows locked at night, you will need to consider what you would do in the event of a fire. If a particular window might in some cases be the only available exit, then having it comprehensively locked would not be a good idea. You will need to ensure that, in the event of a fire, you can quickly open the window and make an immediate exit.
Don't have a ladder in your garden
In most cases it is not easy for burglars to enter your house through an upstairs window but if you provide a ladder then this will make it much easier for them. Don't leave a ladder easily available in your garden. If you have a ladder make sure it is securely locked away inside your garage.
Thorn bushes under a window
Depending on the layout of your garden, consider planting a thorn bush against the wall directly under your window. Some thorn bushes have incredibly sharp resilient thorns. As it grows you can clip it back until it neatly sits just under the window extending to the full length of the window sill. Even if a burglar has heavy gloves, a well grown thorn bush will present an almost impassable barrier. This is just one of those extra small things that you can do that may just make a difference.
You should make maximum effort to ensure that the outside of your home is as secure as possible but don't stop there. If a burglar were to break in, you need to make sure that he will not have an easy job searching for your valuables.
The first simple solution here is not to have any valuables in the first place. If you don't have any valuable things then you are not likely to sustain much loss in a burglary.
If you have small items of great value, hide them. You could put them in an old cardboard box that looks very inconspicuous but if you do this, be very careful not to throw it out when you have a clear out!
Another possibility is to have a safe but this will need to be very large and heavy or it will need to be screwed down to the floor to make sure it cannot be moved.
Valuable item decoys
If a burglar makes the effort to break into your home, he will not want to go away empty handed. Why not have some decoy items in your house that would look enticing to a burglar. Remember that most burglars will only remove what they can carry in one load. It would be unusual (but not unknown) for a burglar to turn up with a removal lorry and empty the whole house.
Some very visible decoy items that you might want to consider having in your house, might be as follows:
- A small security safe. You will need to put something inside it that provides a slight rattle. Try a biscuit tin with a brick inside it. Make sure the safe is heavy but not too heavy (maybe 30-50 kg). Ensure that moving the safe makes a slight tinkling sound as the biscuit tin (with the brick inside it) moves around. There is a good chance that a burglar will find this to be irresistible.
- A jewellery box on your dressing table. You will need to make sure that you fill it with some good quality, but very low cost, costume jewellery. Even better, buy some second hand real jewellery that means nothing to you and put it in the box.
- A picture. If you have a valuable picture, why not take a photo and produce a copy and put that on the wall. This can be very useful if you have a room with a lot of sunlight. Sunlight is very damaging to pictures so a copy hanging on your wall (instead of the real thing) is a much better solution.
- Some antiques. Burglars love high value antiques but of course antiques vary in price a lot and a burglar is not likely to know for sure. Buy some old silver on ebay or an expensive looking clock that no longer works. If a burglar steals these then you will not have lost much.
Carry out a security review.
After considering the obvious points above, the next step is to review your own property. Take a pen and note paper and stand outside your house. Imagine that you are a burglar. You are short of money and you have decided that this house might be a good place to rob. You want to break in. Now consider the various ways that this could be done. In each case write the details down on your notepad. Then consider them one by one and ask yourself what could be done to make this less inviting and more difficult. Once you have completed reviewing the outside, the next step is to walk around the inside and again ask yourself what you would steal if you were a burglar. Again consider what steps you could take to make it more difficult for any would be burglar.
Hopefully the above will give you some ideas of things you can do to remain secure. Some other things to consider would be:
- Live in a good area (low crime rate). If you are about to buy a house, keep in mind that it is best to buy a house in a good area rather than a bad area. Buying in a good area will probably be more expensive but it may be worth paying the extra.
- Make friends with your neighbours. Do always make maximum effort to get on well with your neighbours. If they know you well they are much more likely to notice anything unusual happening to your property.
- Keep a detailed record of anything that is valuable. If you are burgled, the chances of the police recovering your stolen goods is very unlikely, especially if you are not able to provide much information about what has been stolen. If you are able to give the police full details then this will be better than giving them no details.
If you are burgled then sadly the chances of you ever recovering your property will be extremely unlikely.
If you are looking for a Surveyor, you may find some of these links useful:
I want a local surveyor to do a Building Survey for me
Find local help with Damp and Timber Reports
I want a local surveyor to do a homebuyer survey for me
Find local experts and compare prices
If you need a Valuation Survey
Find local experts and compare prices
I want to find a local surveyor to do an Asbestos Survey for me
If you are looking for a CCTV Drain Survey
Find an Electrician to produce an Electrical report (sometimes known as an Electrical Installation Condition Report - or EICR) for a property.