We all love the summer for very good reasons. We don’t get to see the sun too often in this neck of the woods, so when the sun finally does beat down on us we like to let our hair down and make the most of those golden rays. Hot sun helps us to feel more relaxed and carefree. However, not everyone feels like kicking back when the sun shines: some people like to get to work and capitalise on our carefree attitude.
Burglars love the sun every bit as much as we do: in fact, they probably love it even more, because sunshine can make their lives a whole lot easier. When we relax we tend to get sloppy and let our guard down. We don’t take the usual precautions and close the doors and windows and lock our valuable possessions away. Hot weather can dull the senses, and that’s precisely when burglars will make hay.
So how can you enjoy the benefits of summer and still protect your home and contents and keep your possessions safe and sound? What can you do to make a burglar’s life as difficult as possible? Well, the good news is you won’t need to stay indoors or lock the windows and bolt the doors: you won’t even need to avoid going away on holiday. All you’ll need to do is to stay vigilant and take these very simple precautions:
Draw up a holiday home-security checklist
If you’re planning on going abroad, or escaping to the country for a few days, then you’ll want to know that you’ve done everything within reason to protect your property and possessions before you jet off. If you do this, you’ll know that you’ll be able to fully relax and thoroughly enjoy the time away. But what exactly will you need to do to secure that peace of mind? Well, you can start by drawing up a checklist. Once that’s done you can refer to this, not just for this holiday, but also for subsequent ones. The important point is that you should refer to this checklist each and every time you go away.
So what should be on the checklist? Well, that depends on the value of what you would like to secure, and whether you’re prepared to shell out serious sums of money for serious reassurance. If you’ve got the funds, you can install burglar alarms and security cameras. You can even upload apps that will let you keep an eye on your property from anywhere in the world, and also operate lights on timers so it looks like you’re home, even when you’re not.
However, not everyone’s budget can stretch to those lengths. Most of us have to make do with what we’ve got, and cut our cloth accordingly. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t precautions we can take to safeguard your home and possessions:
- Start by making sure all the doors and windows are securely locked when you leave the property. It might sound blindingly obvious, but some people still fail to do this, and then return home and are surprised to find that their home has been ransacked.
- If your locks aren’t sufficiently robust, replace them with security locks that can withstand force.
- Talk to your neighbours, let them know you’re planning on going away, and ask them if they’d mind keeping an eye on your property when you do. Tell them you’ll return the favour when they next go away.
Make better use of timed lighting and TV/radio noise
If you want to send a clear signal to a potential burglar that a house is empty and unoccupied, then leave it in darkness and leave it silent. Nobody sits at home in the dark or in silence. But if you’re not going to be at home what can you do? Well, if you’ve got money the answer’s simple: invest in smart technology so that lights are switched on and curtains/blinds drawn automatically. Sadly, most of us don’t have the funds to do that. So what you can do instead is to make better use of timers. Programme your timers so that the lights come on when you’re not at home, and do the same with the TV or radio. If you can afford it, invest in a 7-day timer, and vary the hours that both the lights and appliances are turned on. If the hours are the same every day, then anyone watching the house will soon twig that the property is unoccupied.
Join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme and befriend those living closest to you
You don’t have to bare your soul to the world or live in other people’s pockets to get peace of mind. Being neighbourly can be beneficial. Join a scheme if you can spare the time, or at least speak to your neighbours every now and then. If your neighbours warm to your approach, they’re far more likely to take an interest in you and what goes on at your property. Another pair of watchful eyes is always useful when burglars are on the prowl.
Don’t let the garden get out of control.
If you’ve got neighbours living either side of you, then you’ll be safer and more secure if you can see their properties clearly, and they can see yours. Don’t let the garden borders or hedges get out of control. Keep plants trimmed and pruned so that there are no hiding places and you still have a clear line of sight. By doing that you can see if someone is hanging around your garden at night, and more importantly so can your neighbours.
Open windows and doors are a golden ticket for opportunistic burglars
A home needs ventilation and a chance to breathe. It’s probably been shut up all autumn and winter, and could therefore do with a good airing. In summer we tend to throw the windows open and leave doors ajar for this very reason. But whilst it’s good to throw windows open, it’s just as important not to throw caution to the wind.
If you’re leaving the house, make sure you shut and lock doors and windows. If you live in an area where there are frequent burglaries, it might even pay to be ultra-cautious and lock the doors when you leave a room. Although that might sound a little excessive, it’s worth remembering that if only takes a few seconds for opportunists to sneak in through open doors or poke their arms through open windows.
What about leaving windows open at night? Well, it’s perfectly OK to do so, as long as you take precautions. If you live on the ground floor, security might be slightly more problematic then if you sleep on the first floor; though it’s worth remembering that burglars also frequently make use of ladders, so height isn’t necessarily a protection. If you do want to sleep with your windows open at night, then it’s worthwhile installing security catches. By using these you can get the ventilation you need whilst ensuring the windows can’t be opened widely by intruders outside.
Never keep valuables within arms’ reach
If you do keep your windows open during the summer months, then it’s important to ensure that any removable valuables like laptops, phones, jewellery, car keys, wallets, etc are kept out of arms’ reach. These items are potentially valuable to thieves, so don’t store them anywhere near open windows. It doesn’t matter if the window is only open a crack: they can easily be forced open wider.
Create a secure hidden storage area within the home
If you really do have to keep valuable possessions or documents on the premises when you’re going away, it’s probably worth investing in a safe, or a safe store. You can keep your treasures here securely, but you’ll need to make sure the safe store is well hidden. The point is to make a burglar’s life as difficult as possible, so don’t store your valuables in plain sight, even if they secured by lock and key.
Be social, but don’t overshare your business online
Sharing information on social media is fine and has its place, but it becomes a problem when you overshare and give away information that burglars are eagerly searching for. Determined professional burglars are relentless: once they know who you are and what you have to offer them, they’ll follow you on social media, and check your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. So never give them information they can use against you, like you’re going out to watch a film, or you’re going away on holiday for an extended period over the summer holidays. This is the gift that keeps on giving for burglars.
Tips for savvy social media users:
- Never advertise the fact that your property is likely to be unoccupied
- Be careful what you post online. Keep on top of, and constantly update, your privacy settings on social networking sites.
- Set your Facebook profile to ‘private’ and only accept people you genuinely know and trust as your online ‘friends’
- If you are going away on a summer holiday, don’t advertise the fact, and ask your friends not to post about your holiday while you’re away.
- Try not to post anything on Instagram and Facebook that identify your address
Secure and ‘burglar-proof’ your garden
You might think of your garden as a place of peacefulness and serenity during the summer months, but that won’t stop burglars invading your space if they think there are easy pickings to be had. They couldn’t care less about your feelings: they simply want anything of yours that’s worth having. Particularly at risk during the summer months are bikes and children’s toys left hanging around, and tools and appliances stored in sheds and garages with flimsy locks. So, make sure anything of value is packed away when not in use, especially overnight, and ensure that all your locks are secure and up to the task. If you’re going away on holiday, it might be a good idea to take high-value items out of the shed and keep them more securely locked up in your house.
Tips for security conscious garden lovers:
- Laying gravel around your property can be a great deterrent. Intruders can’t approach the house silently and stealthily when you lay a gravel path.
- Make sure hedges are trimmed back so your property is not hidden from view.
- Defensive gardening planting – using sharp and spiny shrubs like Cotoneaster and Berberis – will deter intruders. They won’t be able to hide from you in borders and it will make getting away from the property slower and more painful.
- Install strong gates and fences to all parts of the garden accessible from outside, ideally 2 metres high and with 30-45cm of open-ended trellising at the top.
- If you’ve bought new or valuable items, don’t leave the packaging out with your recycling for an extended period of time. Don’t give burglars clues about your possessions.
- Fit padlocks on shed doors and outbuildings, and consider installing small, battery-powered alarms.
Check your home insurance policy is up-to-date and up-to-scratch
Should the worst happen whilst you’re away from the house, and your home is broken into and your property stolen or damaged, it’s vital to know that your home and contents are properly and adequately insured. You should therefore check that your home and home contents’ insurance actually covers all the things you assume it does, and that you fully understand all the specific details or criteria which could hinder any claims you might need to make – details like specific requirements about locks on windows and doors. If you’re in any doubt, or don’t fully understand what requirements the policy places upon you as the home owner, then carefully read the small print, and then speak to one of the advisers at your insurance company. It’s far better to have the conversation before the event, no matter how painful or inconvenient it might be at the time; than to have the conversation later when the damage is already done.