Going out? Make sure you run through the following checklist before you do.
I've checked that all the doors and windows are locked - even if I'm only popping out for a minute.
I've fitted deadlocks to all outside doors. (Burglars hate them because you need a key to open them from the inside as well as the outside.)
I've fitted key-operated locks to all the windows. (Burglars don't like having to break glass because of the noise it makes and the risk of leaving forensic evidence.)
I've made sure that neither my house keys nor my car keys are in sight or easy reach of my windows or doors, and that I don't keep them in an obvious place in the house.
I haven't hidden my spare keys outside, or in the garage or shed. (Burglars always look there.)
I've installed a visible burglar alarm, and I turn it on whenever I leave the house.
I leave the lights and the radio on a timer for the evening when I'm out, so that it looks like I'm in. (You can buy a timer for as little as £2 from DIY shops.) If it's dark outside I also draw the curtains.
I've made sure thieves can't get into the garden - there's a good fence surrounding the house and the side gate is sturdy and padlocked (so it will take more than a good kick to get through it). The garden shed is also locked.
I haven't left any ladders or tools outside, which someone could use to get into the house.
I've made sure that valuables like laptops can't be seen from the window.
I haven't left any cash lying around or any documents with my name, address or other personal details (such as a bank statement or bill) that fraudsters could use.
If I'm going on holiday, I've arranged for a friend or neighbour to collect the post and put the bins out.
Does your front door have a robust deadlock i.e. a lock that requires a key to move the bolt forward into the frame?
You should consider upgrading your locks. If you have a wooden door more than 44mm thick, a 5-lever mortice lock is best. If you have a PVC-u door, a 3 multi-point lock is the best option. For more information and advice contact your local police force and ask for their Crime Prevention Officer or Crime Prevention Design Officer.
Are your doors or frames free from damage caused by weathering or neglect? Are your front and back doors sufficiently strong to resist forced entry?
Even if you have good locks, it wonít do any good if your doors and frames are not strong. You donít necessarily need to replace your doors and frames as there are products available to reinforce your doors. However, if your doors or frames are in very poor condition you may need to replace them. If so make sure that the doorset is certificated to British Standard PAS 24.
Do you have a robust deadlock on your back door?
You should consider upgrading your locks. The locks on your back door should be the same standard as on your front door.
Do you lock your doors when you leave the house for even a few minutes?
Make sure that you always remember to lock up properly when you leave your home - even if you just pop out for a few minutes.
Do you lock your doors at all times when you're home?
Make sure you keep your doors and windows locked when youíre at home, including when youíre out in the garden.
Are your windows and frames in good condition?
Look at the condition of your window frames, as they can be easy to force if weakened by age. Again there are products available to reinforce them, and any new windows should be certificated to British Standard BS 7950.
Do your accessible windows (except those designated as a fire escape route) have locks with keys?
Fit locks on all your accessible windows Ė including those that could be reached by a nimble burglar. There are a number of good locks available which are relatively cheap and easy to fit. PVC-u windows may require specialist locks. For more information and advice contact your local police force and ask for their Crime Prevention Officer or Crime Prevention Design Officer.
Do you keep your windows locked whenever you leave the house?
Make sure that you always remember to lock windows as well as your doors when you leave your home.
If you live in a flat with a communal entry, do you make sure you never buzz strangers in? When entering through communal doors, do you ensure strangers can't follow you in?
Be extra careful about letting people in through shared front doors Ė if you donít know them the simple advice is donít let them in.
Do you have strong locks on your shed or garage?
Set about putting a strong padlock on your garage or shed. These often hold tools which are expensive to replace and could be used to break into your house.
If your garage is attached to your house, do you have deadlocks on connecting doors?
Any door connecting your garage to your house should be treated in the same way as an external door Ė someone could get into the garage and work on the connecting door without being seen.
Do you always lock tools and ladders away?
You should make sure that your tools and ladders are always locked away as these can be used to break into your home. Ladders can be locked to a sturdy bracket on an outside wall if you donít have a garage.
Do you have working outside security lighting?
Good outdoor lighting can deter a burglar by making them fear detection or discovery. A low energy bulb installed within a light that is designed to come on during the hours of darkness is relatively easy to fit and relatively cheap to run.
Is your garden fence in good condition? Is your garden fence high enough to make climbing over difficult?
Securing the perimeter of your garden can act as the first line of resistance. Check for weak spots in your fence, and make sure itís high enough to make climbing over the top difficult.
Are trees or shrubs outside your home trimmed well back?
These should always be well trimmed back so that burglars canít break in unobserved.
Do you have strong locks on your gate or side fence?
By having gates at the side of your house and making sure they are fitted with a decent lock you can stop burglars from easily getting into your garden.
Have you marked the valuable property in your home?
Marking your property is the best way of reducing its value if itís stolen. Use your postcode and the number of your house or flat to clearly identify it. UV pens or chemical trace or microdot liquids can be used on objects that could be damaged by visible marking. Also remember to keep photographs of valuable items such as jewellery to aid identification.
Have you registered your mobile phone(s) with a property register company? Have you registered serial numbers of your computers, MP3 players and other equipment?
Consider registering your property (mobile phones, MP3 players, laptops) with a company such as Immobilise (www.immobilise.com) Ė so that it can be traced back to you if itís recovered by the police amongst stolen items.
Are you a member of Neighbourhood Watch / Home Watch?
Consider joining such a scheme Ė or even starting one if there isnít one in your area. Your local community needs your help in preventing and tackling crimes like burglary. Your local Neighbourhood Police Team will be able to provide details of your local scheme.
Do you have a working burglar alarm?
Consider improving your security with a burglar alarm. Many burglars will avoid breaking into a property with an alarm and will seek out easier properties. Find out more in the Home Officeís publication entitled ĎGuide to Home Securityí.
Do you set it whenever you leave, and at night when you go to bed?
Make sure that you always set your alarm when you leave your home and when you go to bed at night.
Are you careful not to leave keys near a door or window?
Leaving keys within reach of a window, glass pane or in a lock could make a thiefís job easier.
Do you make sure you donít have spare keys hidden outside?
It is not a good idea to leave keys outside. Burglars know that people hide spare keys under flowerpots, under doormats or in garages.
Do you ask friends to remove your post, turn on lights and open your curtains?
Take a few steps when going away on holiday to appear as though you are really at home. Ask a friend to open or shut curtains, turn lights on and off and remove your post. Cancel delivery of milk and papers.
Do you leave a light on, other than the hall light, and shut the curtains?
Consider installing automatic switches to turn lights on whilst you are out in the evening and remember to shut the curtains.
Do you make use of the door spy hole and security chain when you have a visitor? Do you check IDs of strangers who say they are from a utility company?
Take extra precautions when answering the door if youíre not expecting visitors; use a spy hole or security chain, and check IDs carefully if visitors say theyíre from utility companies or the council.
Do you have a home safe stored out of sight?
Consider buying a home safe to store your valuables like jewellery, and keep that stored out of sight.
Do you make sure you donít keep large amounts of cash at home?
It is not a good idea to keep large amounts of cash at home.
Do you keep valuable property away from windows?
Keeping valuables out of sight and away from the windows reduces the chance of a potential burglar seeing them.
When you fit new windows and doors do they comply with British Standards e.g. Kitemarked?
When making improvements to your home, look for doors and windows that comply with British Standards; PAS 24 for a new doorset and BS 7950 for windows. For more information and advice contact your local police force and ask for their Crime Prevention Officer or Crime Prevention Design Officer.
Many burglars will avoid breaking into a property with an alarm.
There are many alarm systems on the market. These range from fairly cheap alarms, which you can fit yourself, to more sophisticated systems, costing hundreds of pounds, which need to be installed by professionals. Low-cost alarms are less reliable and can, through false alarms, be a nuisance to both you and your neighbours.
Consider whether you need an audible-only alarm (which sets off a siren or bell) or a monitored alarm (connected to a central 'listening' service). Due to the huge number of false alarms, police will only respond to audible alarms if there is confirmation of suspicious activity - such as a neighbour saying they saw someone or heard glass being broken.
For monitored systems, the monitoring company will check whether any alarm was false - for example, set off by the homeowners entering the wrong access code - and call out the police if necessary. Monitored systems are particularly important for isolated properties.
Remember, an alarm that is not fitted properly can create problems in itself. Don't fit an alarm yourself unless you have the electrical knowledge and the practical skills to do so; it could end up costing you more.
A rim latch (Yale type) on its own is not sufficient. The door should also be fitted preferably with a 5 lever mortice deadlock, though insurance companies will accept a rim automatic deadlock; both must be to British Standard 3621 or the equivalent European Standard En12209.
Quality locks are only as strong as the doors and frames to which they are attached. Ensure that the frame is sound and the door suitable for external use; for instance, a wooden hollow core door would not be suitable. It should be of substantial construction, at least 44mm (13.75") thick to support 4 the mortice lock and hung on three strong 100mm (4") hinges. The rim latch and the mortice should be fitted 45 to 60cm (18-24") apart. In the door itself, recessed or decorative panels should be a minimum of 9mm (1.33") 3 thick.
Timber frames should be sound and securely bolted or screwed to the walls every 600mm (23") around the whole frame.
Doors with glazed panels are inherently less secure than solid doors, hence the need for a deadlock. Consider replacing ordinary or toughened glass panels with laminated glass - two pieces of glass bonded together with a sheet of laminate - as they offer much greater resistance to attack.
Consider fitting a London Bar (metal strip on frame side) to support the strike box, or Birmingham Bar to support the frame on the hinge side. If the door is weak consider fitting a sheet steel plate or door reinforcer on the outside covering the lock area.
For added safety and security fit a spy hole and door chain or limiter. These will enable you to deal with callers to your front door whilst retaining a level of security.
UPVC/PVCU front doors are generally unsuitable for retro-fit security devices. Not only is the material not strong enough to support devices fitted with steel screws unless secured into the internal metal framework, but such changes to the original design may invalidate an existing warranty or possibly damage the integral locking assembly. If in doubt, consult the installer/manufacturer.
Modern designs will usually incorporate deadlock shoot bolts or a multi-point locking system, both throwing a number of bolts from the door into the frame. Under these circumstances there will not normally be any need for additional devices.
Advice on front door security while the house is occupied will vary, depending on whom you speak to. Fire Safety Officers will advise that, for safety reasons, the mortice deadbolt should not be engaged when the house is occupied, as locating and engaging the key can cause unnecessary delay in escaping from the scene of a fire. Crime Prevention Officers may suggest that a rim latch on its own is insufficient in providing adequate security and that engaging the lock would increase this, as well as the safety of young children in preventing them from wandering. Clearly these are issues which need to be considered. If you feel fire safety is the priority, additional security can be obtained by fitting draw bolts to the top and bottom of the door.
The door should be fitted with a 5 lever 2 bolt mortice sash lock halfway up the door (a deadlock with a handle for convenience).
Unlike front doors, many insurance companies do not specify that they should be to British Standard 3621 or equivalent European Standard EN 12209, though the use of this standard of lock is recommended.
The sash lock should be supplemented by mortice rack bolts (bolts fitted approximately 150mm (6") from the top and bottom of the door into the wood).
Any glass panels should be laminated and fitted from the inside to prevent the putty or beading being removed. Grilles could also be fitted to the inside of the panels.
Hinge bolts are an excellent means of thwarting attempts by criminals to gain access through the door. However, if fitted to a door they should be set when the house is unoccupied.
Neighbourhood Watch is one the biggest and most successful voluntary crime prevention initiatives. Sometimes known as Home Watch, it originated in the United States and in the early 1980s came to the UK, where it quickly became very popular.
Neighbourhood Watch is based around the idea of an active community working in partnership with local partners. At its most basic level, Neighbourhood Watch consists of a group of neighbours getting together to help reduce crime where they live and make their community safer.
A popular initiative, Neighbourhood Watch has become the largest voluntary community safety organisation across the UK, with an estimated 10 million members.
When you become part of Neighbourhood Watch, you donít sign up to a specific programme. Every scheme is different because each is run by and for the members of its community, to meet that community's specific needs.
To find your nearest scheme, contact your local police station or visit www.ourwatch.org.uk.
The first thing to do is to contact your local police station, who will be able to put you in touch with an established scheme (if there is one in your area), and with your local Neighbourhood Watch Association.
If there is no established scheme in your area and others in your neighbourhood are also interested, the police will be able to arrange for a scheme to be set up. To assist in maintaining the scheme, someone will have to volunteer to take on the role of the coordinator.
The co-ordinator is central to the success of the scheme.