Winter brings darker nights and sees less people out and about than when the weather is warmer and the evenings are light and pleasant. Less people and cover of darkness gives opportunistic criminals perfect conditions to take a chance of robbing homes, garages and businesses.
Taking a walk around your neighbourhood with the express intention of looking for homes that would be easy to break into is a very valuable exercise. Look at the properties you pass everyday in a new light, look for mistakes the homeowners have made that would make their place attractive to a burglar. When you’ve done that go around your own property and see how many of the same mistakes – or different ones you have made.
Here are tips to set you on the right track.
Is there anything in the gardens that would attract attention and be worth stealing? Have the kids left their bikes lying around? Is your super-deluxe BBQ in plain view?
Are there any broken fence panels that would allow easy access to your property?
Is your garage for secure? Many of us use our garages as store rooms for all kinds of expensive kit such as lawn mowers and power tools. If you don’t need the front door open daily consider leaving it closed and bracing it from the inside for extra security, you can use the personal door for your daily coming and going.
Does your garden gate have a lock on the inside? If not why not? Stopping people getting to the back of your home where they are less likely to be seen is an often overlooked hole in home security.
If you have outside lights are they working? Check bulbs and switches before the weather gets any worse.
Do the doors into your home have adequate locks? Take your keys, go outside and see if you can get in. The old credit card trick much beloved of TV shows and movies actually works and it’s even easier with softer plastic like a section cut from an ice cream carton!!! I actually have such a slip of plastic in my bag and have gotten into the house with it – then I had the door re-hung so it fits so well you wouldn’t get a human hair in let alone a plastic sheet. Check your doors fit properly and get them fixed if they don’t.
Remember that you can have as many locks as you like but if a couple of kicks will shatter the door frame you have wasted good money. Make sure door frames are solid and have proper external door frames on external doors, interior frames will give out with one decent kick.
If you want to have spare keys leave them with a trusted friend or get a secure, coded key box fixed in an unobtrusive position that only you know about. Forget under the doormat, secreted in a fake stone, hidden in a plant pot or on a string through the letter box. All of these are highly unsafe.
Have a locking chain on the front door and never open the door to strangers unless it’s in place. Someone hitting a door full force will knock you off your feet and before you’re back up they’re in. If your visitor is there in any supposed official capacity ask for ID and check it out if you feel uncomfortable. Anyone with a computer can create an ID badge and there are plenty of costume shops and online suppliers of uniforms of all types. If you’re not sure make a call and check out the person at your door.
Keep the area outside the front door neat and tidy with nothing to hide behind. This applies to large shrubs and bushes that could conceal a person.
Consider natural defences. Roses growing up and along the tops of fences, hawthorn around the perimeter of the property and why rip out the brambles if they are doing no harm at the bottom of the garden? Anything with spikes is a deterrent.
Getting plants to the tops of fences can take a long time so consider a quick fix. Lightweight trellis along the top of fencing will not support a persons weight and makes a fall very likely, most likely making them consider their cuts and bruises before carrying on to break into your home.
Carpet gripper strips along the top of fences works well, as does a liberal coating of anti-climb paint.
Having things inside the fence that would make for an uncomfortable landing is never a bad idea. Sharp plants in terracotta pots, low height bird tables, even garden canes supporting plants make landing after dropping from the fence more difficult!
If ladders have to be on show make sure they are on ladder brackets booted to a wall and the ladders are chained to the mountings.
Consider cheap solar lights on fence posts. Criminals don’t like light.
Hardwired security lights that come on as someone approaches the door are very bright and illuminate would be crooks perfectly.
Don’t underestimate even the smallest dog. They might not be classed as a guard dog but anything that barks is a perfect watch dog alerting you that someone is in the area around your property.
Alarm systems need not cost a fortune, ask around and get quotes…do not fill in online forms for any type of home security, anyone that reads it knows you have no alarm or whatever else you are looking into.
If you’re travelling NEVER write your address on your luggage label. Write your name and the building number and postal code/zip code of your nearest police station.
Keep a simple airhorn and mace if you’re allowed it, wasp nest spray if you’re not allowed mace, near your most likely point of entry. One alerts neighbours you need help and the other hurts like hell and could well deter a would-be burglar.
Consider fitting a small home safe, you can buy these for quite reasonable prices and that way you know passports and other valuable documents as well as cash and jewellery are safe if someone did get in. Mounting them yourself is simple and the bottom of a wardrobe or closet, bolted to the wall is ideal as ‘stuff’ can be put in front of it.
If you are away for any length of time have a trusted friend visit, open a window, have a coffee and generally check the place over. Changing routines and lights going on and off at different times of day and night makes you less likely to be targeted.
If you are using timers for light and TV make sure they come on and go off at around the time you would be putting lights on and off when you were home.
Stop all deliveries when you are away from home. Ask your visiting friend to check mail boxes and remove junk mail from porches etc where a build up may be seen and would be a give-away, literally.
Take special care to secure sliding patio doors. A chunk of wood in the bottom of the frame prevents them from being forced open.
Be careful who you speak to. If you live in a small place like I do telling the checkout operator you are counting the days to your holiday may not be the wisest thing to do. He/she may be fine, but you don’t know everyone they know and just them saying how jealous they are because ‘this woman that comes into the store is off to Mauritius’ maybe all it takes to see you coming home to a smashed up robbed property.
Got food stores and other prepping paraphernalia ready for when the balloon goes up? Read point 26 and take it on board. Hungry and scared people are desperate and it pays not to advertise what you have.
Make your own defensive ‘welcome’ mats. Cheap rubber backed mats with 4′ nails banged through them are excellent deterrents. Position where you would step coming through the door. Take them up in the morning. Easiest to make if you turn them over on the lawn and bang the nails through. The rubber backing stops the nail heads coming through.
Buy a toy. Many toys have built in sensors…Furbies are the ones I hate the most…anything that startles a would-be home invader is a good thing. My personal favourite is the programmable Scooby Doo my sister-in-law has that screams “intruder alert, intruder alert” as soon as someone walks in front of it. Before you ask I have been trying for two years to get one, no joy yet but those bloody Furbies my daughter has outgrown finally have a use. Stood behind the external door the slightest tap makes the things start yelling and screaming…
Consider turning one internal door around so it opens outwards instead of inwards. This is your safe room as it’s far harder to shoulder a door that opens outwards than a traditional inwards opening door. This room should have a full emergency kit in there and a means of escape such as a roll out fire ladder in a box under the window that you can throw out of the window and effect an escape if the chance arises. We in the UK are lead deprived so having a gun in there is out of the question but the rechargeable nail gun, permanently on charge in the top of the spare room wardrobe could do a fair bit of damage if my life depended on it.
If the worst happens and someone does get into you home think before you act. As tempting as it is to fight if there’s a safe way out take it. If there’s not consider your safe-space or just barricading yourself in a room. Think outside the box for defensive weaponry. Got an electric alarm clock and a metal door handle? Pull the clock off the wire and when the handle rattles…Do what you can with what you have, if the situation has gotten that far out of hand it’s all you can do.
Hopefully by moving around your property and going room to room with a critical eye you will avoid being the victim of a home invasion.