How to protect your home from intruders
Burglary rates are falling, with 677,000 reported burglaries reported in 2011/12 in comparison with 743,000 in 2010/11.
While this is of course positive, it's important to recognise that statistics can be unduly comforting.
With the dark winter nights coming in, now is the perfect time to ensure your home is adequately protected against break-in.
Dr Steffan George from the UK's locksmithing association, the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA), offers up his top tips for winter security:
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Dr George said: "Now the clocks have changed, the dark nights are here and Christmas is on its way, none of us want to find ourselves locked out of our homes, or – worse – broken into.
"Getting your house winter-ready means you can rest assured you have done everything you can to protect yourself, your family and your property.
"However, it can be difficult to know where to start so we have put together a check-list of steps you can take to protect your home over the winter."
Make the most of the autumn sunshine to get out in your garden and make sure any tools and items such as ladders are stored away, so they cannot be used to break into your property.
If you don't own a garage or shed, consider installing one now and make sure you source a good quality lock.
Review the exterior of your property to make sure there are no broken windows or access to your property through garages or conservatories.
Remove any valuable objects from view.
Ask a vetted, inspected and qualified locksmith to review your doors and windows to make sure they have appropriate locks, are in good condition and meet your insurance requirements.
Put an end to any bad habits – for instance do you leave your keys in the door, on a window nearby or even on a shelf? If so you are putting yourself at risk. Simple tips such as always setting alarms and changing codes on a frequent basis and locking any side or back gates can make a substantial difference.
Opportunist thieves can often approach houses that look like nobody is at home so consider installing a number of light timers around the house so it appears someone is home.
Consider additional security measures such as alarms and even CCTV which can act as a deterrent as well as help catch any intruders.
Side windows can be smashed to reach keys and gain entry so consider adding reinforced glass or maybe even block the glass up. Decorative grilles can also vastly improve the security of a home without being detrimental to the aesthetic.
Home safes are becoming increasingly popular too so you may want to consider asking a specialist locksmith to specify and install one.
You may also want to install top and bottom bolts on French doors or add sash jammers to UPVC doors.
While you are reviewing your security it is also worth considering when your keys were last replaced, whether past owners or tenants may still have access to your home and whether anyone may have made copies of your keys without your knowledge. If you are worried ask a professional locksmith to change your locks and fit a patented system whereby keys can only be copied with proof of ownership.
Consider installing dusk to dawn or sensor lighting to the front and back door of your home.