Tonight is Christmas for burglars – how to ensure your home stays safe
The chances of you getting burgled just shot up – this is why and what you can do to make sure you're not the one who gets targeted
The clocks have gone back and burglars are celebrating – with more darkness comes more opportunity to break in and take your goods.
Figures from The Co-operative Insurance show a huge spike in home claims when the clocks change, with theft claims increasing by 38% in the five months after daylight saving time ends.
Findings from Halifax Home Insurance paint a similar picture. The insurer recorded 4,175 winter burglary claims last year, a 24% increase on the summer months; each burglary cost an average of £2,178.
Martyn Foulds from Halifax Insurance, said: “We saw winter burglaries go up by almost a quarter last year compared to the summer months. In part, this is down to fact the cover of darkness makes life easier for unwelcome visitors.”
Separate research from insurer, Aviva, shows that household theft claims hit a peak on Bonfire Night, which sees 21% more burglaries than an average day.
£2,178 Average cost of a break in 38% More thefts in winter
How to stay safe
These findings should serve as a clear reminder to us all to take steps to beef up security and protect our homes.
“Now is the perfect time to think about home security, as the clocks go back and the days get shorter,” said Mark Hallam from Swinton Insurance. “All you need to do is take a few simple precautions, such as installing a burglar alarm, fitting a chain to the door, and ensuring you have appropriate insurance in place.”
This is a view shared by Su Snaith from estate agency Harrison Murray. “As we move further into autumn and winter, the days and nights are getting darker, but we aren’t suggesting that people live in fear. It is simply about adopting a practical, common-sense approach in assessing safety measures in your home.”
What to do about it
Manchester Evening NewsBurglar alarm at former Stockport police station building has been going off for 2 weeks
There are five key areas to look at if you're trying to keep your things safe from opportunist thieves:
Fit an alarm system: First off, you should think about having a British standard approved burglar alarm installed. Once you’ve done this, make sure you always set it when leaving your home. You might even want to consider having an alarm which has a direct link to the police.
Fit robust locks on doors: Fit high-quality locks on doors and windows and make sure you use them every time you go out and also at night when the family is in bed.
Improve lighting: Look into installing motion-sensitive lighting fixtures above front doors, porches, garage doors and entrances to back gardens. Also fit timers to indoor lights so that lights come on when you are not at home.
Hide valuables: Ensure valuable items can’t be easily seen through windows; make sure they are hidden from view.
Keep keys safe: Don’t leave keys hidden under door-mates, in flower pots, or in other “safe” places – burglars know where to look. Also be aware that thieves often turn to letterboxes to obtain keys.
Further security tips
Simple, cheap, but surprisingly effective
Outside of those areas, there are a number of other ways to deter thieves.
Make sure your property is not easily accessible. Improve fencing or put up a gate.
High walls, spiky railings and prickly bushes around a property can make it more difficult to break in – and also harder to get away if burglars are disturbed. Securely bolt or padlock side and back gates.
Gravel driveways can help you to hear people approaching the house.
Keep tools and ladders that can be used to break into the home locked away.
If possible, don’t allow the front of your home to be obscured by trees or hedges that may provide hiding places for thieves.
Padlock sheds containing bikes, garden equipment and tools.
Mark property such as bikes and tools with a UV pen. This is a discreet way to identify your items if they are stolen.
Be a good neighbour and join the local Neighbourhood Watch group. Visit Ourwatch.org.uk .
Check your cover
In addition to these steps, you should also ensure that you have the right home insurance in place to provide the support you need in the event of a burglary.
Comprehensive annual buildings and contents insurance should not cost the earth, and will give you peace of mind of knowing your home and possessions are protected.
“Make sure your home contents cover is fully up-to-date and at a high enough level to cover all your belongings sufficiently,” said Dan Plant from Moneysupermarket. “Also ensure you are compliant with everything your insurer outlines in the policy. If in doubt, call your provider for more detail.”
Reporting a burglary
Should you fall victim to a burglary, report it to the police as soon as possible, and obtain an incident number.
Also contact your home insurer, quoting the police incident number, and giving as much detail as possible about what was taken, and any damage to the property.
National Home Security Month takes place throughout October with the aim of building awareness around the importance of protecting your home, family and possessions.