Toolkit supported by ERA

In the year to March 2018, there were 437,537 recorded burglaries in England and Wales, a rise of 6% on the same period the year before.

While this is not a dramatic rise, it is worrying because burglaries are among the best-reported types of crime, so police-recorded increases are likely to reflect genuine increases.

Also, reports of burglaries had been falling steadily until two years ago. In 2003, when comparative records began, police recorded 890,099 burglaries in England and Wales, but offences dropped to a low of just over 400,000 in March 2016.  Since then, numbers have been rising again.

Not only that, national police data shows the proportion of suspects who are caught and punished for burglaries halved from 6% to 3% in England and Wales over the five years from 2013 to 2017.

The prospect of burglary causes anxiety to residents and the experience of it can be traumatic to victims, causing not only material loss but sometimes long-term psychological effects. As with all types of crime, where burglary is concerned, prevention is much better than cure.  This information pack aims to give you all the advice and tools you need to protect your family, your home and your property from intruders and thieves.  The toolkit at the end equips you to run campaigns in your community to spread the word and raise awareness of these prevention measures.


Opportunity plays a big role in enabling people to commit crime, and never more so than burglaries. Most domestic burglaries are committed by ‘opportunists’. Criminals will look for homes that:

  • Seem unoccupied
  • Have little or no obvious security
  • Have doors or windows left open, or
  • Where they think they won’t be seen.

One crime often produces the opportunity to commit another – for example, a successful break-in may encourage the burglar to return again in the near future, because they know when the householders are out and expect the property to be full of shiny new replacement goods.

Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities – products are most vulnerable in their growth stages, when demand for them is at its highest. Most products will reach a saturation stage where most people have them and so the price of second-hand versions becomes so low as to make the risk of getting caught too high.  At that point, they are unlikely to be stolen.

Impact of Neighbourhood Watch

While this information pack will give you lots of tips about physical tools you can use to protect your property, it’s also worth bearing in mind that being part of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme also brings benefits in terms of reducing crime.

A review by the College of Policing of a number of research projects has shown that Neighbourhood Watch programmes that incorporate property marking and home security surveys – known as Neighbourhood Watch Plus – are effective at reducing crime by between 16 and 26 per cent.  This was found to be true in both deprived areas and more affluent ones.

The review also found that Neighbourhood Watch was just as effective in newer schemes as in those that were established some time ago. You should not therefore think of Neighbourhood Watch as an initiative that has “had its day”.  It remains an effective crime prevention tool, particularly against burglary.  This may be because Neighbourhood Watch schemes:

  • Increase surveillance
  • Alter offenders’ perception of risk, if an area is clearly marked as a Neighbourhood Watch area
  • Alter the behaviour of residents, by encouraging them to consciously consider their own home security measures, and
  • Encourage other forms of social interaction and neighbourhood cohesion among communities.

Make sure that if there is a Neighbourhood Watch scheme operating in your community, there are signs making people aware of it.

Principles of property security

An effective way of improving the security of a property, from the environment outside the boundary to the high-value items contained within its walls, is to consider each layer separately, like peeling an onion.

The three layers to think about are:

  1. Perimeter
  2. Shell
  3. Interior

This process can be applied to every type of home, from the detached house with gardens through to a bedsit in a shared house. It also includes garages and sheds.

At each layer the aim is to deter the burglar by installing good security measures and making sure you use them and to delay them by making it harder for them for get in and out.

All of the following sections will provide you with helpful hints to make it harder for a burglar to penetrate each of the layers.

Some experts say that the overall impression of the home will influence whether it is targeted by a potential offender. As a general rule, if it looks like there is someone inside, the potential burglar is likely to go elsewhere. A home in a dilapidated state will seem easier to break into, so a simple deterrent might be tidying up a garden or repainting doors and window frames.

Click on the links below to learn how to increase the security of:

If you are interested in running a campaign among your local Neighbourhood Watch members to encourage them to better protect their property, you’ll find plenty of campaign resources in the burglary prevention toolkit here.