We know that your home is very special to you, as the place where you feel safest and most relaxed. It also contains some very valuable property, if not in a commercial sense, then certainly in terms of its sentimental worth. There is no insurance policy that could compensate you adequately for the loss and upset that can result from a burglary. That's why you should minimise the risk of having your home broken into, and the contents stolen.
There are some very simple steps that you can take, which will help to improve the physical security of your home and allay some of your fears. Many of these will cost you nothing more than a few moments of your time. Other measures may be more expensive, ranging in price from a few pounds to several hundred pounds - but we'll take a look at some of those later on. It's best to begin with the most obvious and easiest steps.
As a starting point for considering the safety of your home, let's look at it from the burglar's point of view. What signs would lead him (or her) to target your home?
Burglars tend to be skilled in recognising signs that indicate when a particular house is vacant. To them, this means that they are unlikely to be disturbed on entry and helps to explain why 80% of burglaries take place in unoccupied houses.
The following are some of the things for which a burglar looks:-
Obviously, any of these occuring by itself does not confirm that the premises are unoccupied. But they are some of the criteria that thieves use to target their victims. The more signs there are, the more certain they can be that nobody is at home.
These tell-tale signs can be easily avoided by a little personal care and attention. If you live in a Neighbouhood Watch Area, it is likely that you and your neighbours will already have developed an awareness of the need to take such precautions. If you are not a member, why not make some enquiries about the advantages of this crime prevention programme.
Modern technology can also be of assistance in quite inexpensive ways. For example, you can purchase a time switch quite cheaply and use this to turn lights on and off automatically at the appropriate times. It can also be used to control radios and televisions to simulate that someone is present in the house; but do make sure that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations and don't compromise your fire safety.
An outside light, especially at the rear of a building, can also act as a deterrent - burglars certainly don't want to be seen. This may go against your natural desire for privacy, which may also require fences and hedges. Sometimes there can be a trade-off between privacy and security, with the "happy medium" being a matter of personal choice.
After you have eliminated any clear indications of unoccupancy, the next step is to make sure that you do not invite the burglar in through carelessness. Most burglars are opportunists and will select the easiest target that they can find.
Don't offer him assistance by:
Also, make sure that ladders are not left in the open, or in insecure positions. In most circumstances the thief will tend not to carry tools or equipment with him, for fear of detection. Don't make his job any easier by providing them "on site".
Simply by taking these straightforward crime prevention measures brings you well on the road to achieving greater household security. These measures alone will decrease the likelihood that you will be the burglar's next victim.
There is still more that you can do to improve your security. At this stage you have reached a point where any would-be burglar can gain entry only by physically breaking into your home. In many cases he can be deterred from doing this by the proper use of locks and bolts.
Windows form a popular entry point for burglars, and it has been estimated that more than two thirds gain entry in this way. The risk partly depends on two factors. The first is how accessible the window is, and the second is how clearly visible the window is to your neighbours and passers-by. Therefore, the most vulnerable windows are those at the rear and side of the building which can be easily reached from the ground, or via pipes or adjoining roofs.
Obviously, windows that have not been left open must be broken or prised open, to allow the burglar to put his hand through to release any catch or fitting.
If window locks are fitted, his task is so much more difficult. This may force him to smash an area large enough to climb through. Breaking glass may attract attention and few burglars will want to risk it. The style of the window can also have a bearing on vulnerability. For example, certain types of louvred windows are particularly risky, because the glass panels can easily be removed.
Various types of window locking devices are available. You should choose a lock that is suitable for your window, whether it is a sash window, a french window, or whether it is wooden or metal framed.
Finally, do remember not to leave the keys to the window locks where they can be seen, or where they are within easy reach.
Doors, particularly those at the side and rear of the dwelling, are also likely entry points. Consequently, they require special attention. It is also important to consider any door that gives access to these areas, including garage doors. Many of the better quality locks will give extra protection against attacks from jemmys, crowbars, hand-drills and picks - some of the favourite tools of the burglar. Yet, sad to say, many outside doors are still being fitted with a type of lock that can be slipped open with a piece of plastic.
Two types of lock are commonly found on external front doors:-
We recommend that, as a minimum precaution, all external doors should be fitted with a five-lever mortice lock. The door leaf should be at least 44mm thick to allow adequate strength after the mortice lock has been fitted.
Mortice security bolts serve a similar purpose and can be used independently, or to augment existing security arrangements. Hinge bolts also serve to boost door security and are especially useful on doors with exposed hinges, offering protection even if the hinges themselves are removed.
The quality of the door and of the materials used will also affect its strength against attack. If the design of the door is weak, then it will be difficult to compensate for this by using high security locks. For example, hollow doors are not suitable for use as external fittings and should be confined to internal use only.
Note: In the interests of Fire Safety, all members of the household should have easy and immediate access to keys to doors and windows. A smoke alarm may give you that life-saving warning
If you don't have a glass panel in your front door you should consider fitting a door viewer. This will enable you to identify the caller without having to open the door.
As well as fitting suitable locks, you might also like to fit a door chain or door limiter. These provide you with additional security when you are at home, by helping you to control access.
If you are the holder of licensed firearms or ammunition, you should take special precautions to ensure their safety. A steel gun locker is a worthwhile purchase which will afford a high level of security and give a lifetime's service. If you don't have one of these, then keep the firearm and ammuniton separately, and remove the firing mechanism and magazine. This will prevent the easy unlawful use of the weapon, not only by criminals, but also by inquisitive children.
Whatever the nature of your property, be sure that you have an adequate record of it and that, where possible, it is also marked with your own property number.
The benefits of marking property are that:
When you are away fom home, we recommend that you should not usually lock weak internal doors. They offer little resistance and locking them may result in unnecessary damage. If the intruder has gained access it is unlikely that these will prove realistic deterrents. For similar reasons it is also felt that cupboards and bureaux should not be locked. Moreover, in no circumstances should these ever be considered as providing sufficient protection for your valuables.
Even if the worst should happen, i.e. that the burglar succeeds in entering your house, there are still steps that you can take.
In the first instance, you should limit the amount of cash left in the home. Don't leave money in dishes or jars in anticipation of paying some bill.
All jewellery should be locked out of sight when you are not at home - either in a small floor safe or some similar protective casing. You could just as easily protect it by leaving it with a relative or friend, particularly if you intend to be away for some time. Some banks also offer this holding facility.
Bicycles are very valuable items of property, often carelessly left around the house. Once they are off the street, there is a tendency to forget the danger from thieves. However, many bicycles are stolen from backyards and side passages. Always keep your bicycle locked when it is not in use.
A property marking number is simply a specific number used to identify your property. We recommend that you use your date of birth and initials. For example: -
The items that should be marked are those most likely to be stolen, especially portable electrical and mechanical goods. In the event of your property being stolen and later recovered, as often happens, the Gardaí will have no trouble in matching the property with its rightful owner.
You can mark your property with any of the following: -
The precise method should depend on the nature of the property that you are marking; on whether or not it is glass, metal, wood, fabric, etc. There may be some items of property that you do not want to mark, because of their individual character or value, e.g. crystal, items of jewellery or antiques. These items should be photographed.
If you want to know more about the property marking scheme, contact your local Garda Station.
This webpage has been confined to suggesting basic and yet effective means of protecting your home and property.
Good quality door and window locks are relatively inexpensive and have been shown to be effective deterrents. The builders fitted mortice deadlocks and window locks as standard in all the houses in Prospect Manor, but they will only work if you use them.
Fitting a wide angle door viewer and a door chain significantly reduces the risk of bogus callers gaining entry to your home. And don't leave callers standing alone at an open front door, or in the hallway, while you go elsewhere to fetch something.
All the above products are available from good quality locksmiths who will, if necessary, install them.
If you are considering having an intruder alarm installed, ensure that it complies with the Irish Standard for Burglar Alarms (I.S. 199). Companies carrying out work that complies with this standard are certified by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. You should get written quotes from three such companies before making your decision.
The information on this webpage is also available in a free booklet, available from your local Garda Station. If you live in Prospect Manor, the booklet is also available from your Local Area Co-ordinator.
Other booklets are also available free of charge.