The best way to protect your home from criminals is to get inside the mind of a criminal. Knowing what criminals are likely to do to break into your home can help you to take steps to minimise these risks. In order to try to reduce the number of burglaries that are committed in the United Kingdom, the Home Office decided to get the offender’s perspective on burglary from a range of different people who had been convicted of burglary offences. Although this research is over 10 years old, it is still useful for homeowners to help them to come up with a strategy to protect their homes.
Around quarter of respondents in the research stated that they had committed a burglary with absolutely no pre-planning. Around half stated that they had planned to commit a burglary, but had not chosen their target well in advance. Only about a fifth of the burglars who were asked said that they had thoroughly planned out the burglary before they went through with the offence. This shows that burglars are more inclined to pick their targets at the last minute. Minimise your risk of being the target by making your house look unappealing to burglars. Adding extra security features to your home is likely to make opportunistic thieves overlook your property in favour of easier targets. The research found that there were no discernible patterns as to which type of property would most likely to be targeted by criminals. The type of property that is targeted will often come down to the individual preferences and skill sets of those who are intending to commit the crime.
The Home Office research showed that more than half of the burglars who were interviewed knew their victim before they committed the offence. They stated that they were more likely to choose a property to target based on assumed gain, rather than structural factors. This means that they are more likely to target places based on the assumption that there are high value items inside. To reduce the risk of being targeted, occupants should be careful about “advertising” expensive products.
Avoid showing off expensive products on Facebook and do not leave branded cardboard boxes (TV, DVD, HI-Fi etc) from new products out on show. Likewise, be careful about using social media websites to advertise the fact that you are going to be away on holiday. This can make world-be burglars aware that your home is going to be empty for the duration of your holiday. A consequence of this was seen recently in the news.
Almost two-thirds of those who were interviewed by the Home Office stated that they had returned to the site of a previous burglary within a year in order to commit a second offence. More than half of those who revisited the same property did so within a month of the first burglary. They either returned because they knew that there were still high value good worth taking, or they returned because they knew that high value goods had been replaced following the initial crime. Most said that they would not attempt to burglarise a home that has recently been burglarised by another criminal, even if they knew that high value items were in the house, partly because they would not be familiar with the layout of the property. To reduce the risk of being hit a second time, improve the security on your home immediately after the first break-in. Consider changing things about the layout of your home to make it harder for criminals to navigate. Do not “advertise” the fact that you are having high value goods replaced after the first burglary.
The majority of those who were interviewed stated that they gained access to the property by entering at the rear of the building. The burglars were most likely to gain entry by forcing a window open. 15% of those questioned had been able to gain access to a building without needing any additional tools or without using force, because the property had been left unsecured by the household. To reduce access opportunities for criminals, homeowners must make sure that they lock all windows and doors whenever they go out and keep them locked at night. Consider adding an extra layer of security to doors (such as a Chubb lock), especially if they are older wooden doors. Window restrictors can also make it harder for criminals to open windows wide enough for criminals to gain access to the home.
Those who were questioned as part of the research stated that they were most likely to be deterred from committing a crime by, the presence of an alarm outside of the property, by the belief that the house is occupied, and by the use of CCTV at or near to the property. Having an alarm fitted at your house can be relatively inexpensive but may help you to stop a crime from occurring at the property. It is also possible to take numerous steps to make it appear as though your house is occupied, even if you are not actually at home. Use timers to switch the lights or the radio on and off at intervals to make it look as though someone is in. Cancel milk and newspaper deliveries whilst you are away, and ask a neighbour to visit your house occasionally to stop the post from piling up on your doorstep.
Finally, consider installing CCTV cameras in an obvious location at your home. Dummy cameras are also available, which may help to put off some opportunist thieves. Remember that the camera should only point at your property and must not record things from neighbouring houses unless you have their permission to do so. If you live on a private road, you may want to encourage the residents association to put up cameras all of the way along the street. The close proximity of these cameras can help to protect the whole street from the threat of burglary.