Despite the fact that incidences of domestic burglary have been falling significantly since 1993, the rate of decrease has now more than halved. There are still more than 700,000 reports of burglary and household theft reported every year. This follows news that burglars are becoming increasingly familiar with traditional home security systems, and just as wise to high-tech strategies for bypassing them.

Police are now encouraging residents to complete a home security self-assessment and consider measures to make their properties more secure. The hope is to reduce the number of victims of break-ins and burglaries, and keep neighbourhoods secure.

One crime prevention advisor, working as part of the UK Police ‘Secured by Design’ initiative, claimed that “it is not often that we actually take the time to fully assess the security of our properties,” but it’s imperative that we do. Even the most basic security measures can reduce your risk of burglary by more than half. Here’s how to conduct a security assessment for your home, with suggestions to help you take necessary precautions and aid crime prevention where you live.

Assess the risks

An accurate risk assessment weighs the cost of a suitable home security strategy against the potential losses you might experience without it. Look at crime statistics in your area and determine the threat of burglary to your home. According to Government figures, dwelling location, home type and tenure all factor into your vulnerability. Detached houses in suburban areas are more prone to break-ins, as are new tenants and previously burglarised properties.

Having cheap, low-quality or old equipment is going to increase the chance that your security systems will fail. It won’t matter if it’s the best system in the world; if it’s not properly installed, it won’t be of any use. Security 201 state that, while an off-the-shelf or DIY security system may be cheap to begin with, the lack of a warrantee or regular maintenance guarantee will cost you more with additional repairs. They also note that quality door locks will lower your insurance premium, and “reduce the chances that you’ll need to make a claim in the first place.”

Your reputation is also a vulnerability. Is it likely that you will be the target of an attack by your neighbours or acquaintances? If there’s a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme in your area, becoming a member is likely to improve your home security. For every hundred crimes, more than a quarter were prevented by Neighbourhood Watch schemes in the UK, Canada and the US.

Take physical security precautions

Protections exist to reduce vulnerability. Once you have analysed your potential threats and vulnerabilities, it’s time to discuss the security measures you can put in place. All locks should be properly installed and in working order. A poorly secured door is the most common way for a burglar to enter your home, so it is therefore not only imperative to keep your doors secured at all times (whether you’re home or not), but to also ensure those locks are up to scratch.

You should also consider fitting your doors with deadbolt locks and/or door chains. If you don’t have a window in your front door, or some other way of check who’s calling, have one fitted. Considering most burglaries take place after nightfall, there’s no reason to think your home is secure just because you’re in.

Window locks are strongly recommended for ground floor windows and all other windows which are easily accessible from street level, for example, where they can be reached from a flat roof extension. Further protection would be to bar them, or even invest in a window tint similar to 3M security film.

Better living through home security – other tips you may not have considered

A burglar will do everything they can to avoid being seen. At night, a home without any lights on not only suggests that a property may be empty, but also makes it unlikely that neighbours could see anyone approaching. Either use ‘Dawn to Dusk’ or PIR (passive infrared) lighting, which activates when movement is detected.

Lighting your home sends out a clear message to the potential thief that you have put security measures into place. Use timer switches on internal lights so they switch on and off automatically and make it look like there is someone at home

Increase perimeter visibility by trimming trees that obscure windows or entranceways. Any gates leading to your house should ideally be in line with your door to increase your or your neighbour’s chances of seeing someone attempt to access them.

Fencing is often the first line of defence when it comes to deterring a thief. A spiked fence
can offer a barrier which is either difficult to climb or allows you to define your property. A low level fence and gate (approximately 1m high) at the front of your house allows any potential burglar to be seen by you and/or your neighbours.

At the rear of your house a fence approximately 1.8m high with an open trellis provides good security and is difficult to climb. Strategic gardening can also deter intruders. Consider planting berberis, blackthorn, firethorn, or any other prickly bushes.

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