Fences and shrubbery
The location and appearance of fences, gates, trees and hedges are all important in determining whether a property is a high or low risk for a burglar. You want to eliminate possible hiding areas, or easy ways of gaining entry. Overgrown bushes and trees can make it easier for a burglar to get into a home unnoticed.
It helps to have good visibility into the front garden, so low fences (around 1m high) are good there, but at the back, high walls or fences (1.8 metres or 6 feet tall) provide maximum security. Fitting a trellis or plastic spikes to the top of a fence makes climbing it more difficult. Barbed or razor wire or broken glass is not recommended on walls or fences; if you use these, and a person injures themselves on it, you can face prosecution under the Occupiers Liability Act – even if the person was trying to enter your property without your permission. However, you can protect your property with a prickly bush! Hawthorn, pyracantha and holly are all good examples of anti-trespass hedges.
Gravel driveways and paths are better burglar deterrents than paved ones, as it is hard to disguise the sound of someone crunching on loose gravel.
Side entrances should be secured with lockable gates – and gates should be kept locked. If possible, gates should be fixed with the hinges attached to the wall of the building, and should be level with the front of your house so they can be seen. Their height should match that of the rear fence so that any burglar attempting to climb or force the gate will be seen from the road or nearby houses. Make sure the hinges are secure and that the gate cannot simply be lifted off them.
Ensure you remove or lock up garden tools, ladders, wheelie bins, dustbins, piles of rubble or anything else which might help an offender climb or break into a home.
Good lighting helps to deter a burglar; it also gives security to any welcome visitors to the house. Constant lighting, such as low-level dusk-to-dawn lights (with photoelectric cells, so they only come on when it’s dark) should be used at the front and rear of the house. Fit lights out of easy reach, ideally at least 2.25m high.
Garages and sheds
One of the first places that some burglars may look is in sheds, garages or outbuildings. Usually they are not as securely built as the home and are often located where visibility is poor which can make them an easier target. They often contain a ready source of tools for breaking into the main section of the house. Make them just as secure as the house, so that any burglar is forced to take more time and make more noise.
If you are unable to adequately secure your outbuildings with mortice locks, use closed shackle padlocks on a good-quality hasp and staple or lockable bolts. Windows should be secured by window locks. Windows can be covered with heavy wire mesh or even external ply boards – though you should always think about how you would get out in an emergency. At the very least, hang net curtains to prevent casual viewing of the contents.
Where integral doors are used for entry from the garage into the house, a simple method of security for up-and-over garage doors from inside the garage is to drill a hole in the top channel above the wheels and insert a padlock into the hole. This prevents the wheel moving above the padlock, so the garage door can’t open. Even better, drill a hole in each channel and use two padlocks.
If there is no internal door from the garage to the house then the up-and-over doors can be secured from the outside of the garage by an outer bracket and floor eyelet welded or bolted to the bottom of the door and secured by a padlock inserted into the floor eyelet.
In order to prevent thieves from simply unscrewing the hinges on garage or shed doors and removing the whole door, you can smear glue over the heads of the screws, or replace some of them with a special type that can’t be unscrewed – sometimes called clutch-head, anti-tamper, one-way or coffin screws.
Lock away tools and garden implements and ask your neighbours to do the same. Mark expensive tools and implements with your postcode, using a security pen or scribe.
Lock your ladders away inside your garage or shed to prevent thieves using them to access upstairs windows. If you can’t, padlock them securely – and horizontally – to a sturdy bracket on an outside wall. Do the same thing with your wheelie bins, as these can be used as a climbing aid or for transporting stolen goods.
Battery or mains-powered shed alarms are commonly available in DIY stores – or extend your main burglar alarm to include your outbuildings.
Don’t leave packaging from expensive new items such as laptops or games consoles outside beside the bins, or poking out the top – this is a clear signal to a burglar that there is something worth stealing inside the house.
Burglaries for car keys
Police have recorded increasing number of burglaries where the offender broke into the house to steal the car keys and then made off in the car. Never leave car keys in the garage with the car! Always keep your car keys out of sight in the house, but we don’t recommend you taking them into your bedroom at night. You can take your house keys into your bedroom, as it’s good to have them to hand if you need to get out in an emergency, but if a car thief breaks in to find your car keys, it’s better that they locate the keys without encountering you or your family.
If you have a garage, use it for your car. Consider fitting gates or security bollards onto driveways to secure vehicles on the drive. (Check with your planning office for any restrictions). You can buy ‘garage defenders’ which bolt into the ground in front of the garage and stop it from being opened until you unlock it and drop it flat. Ensure it’s Sold Secure gold or silver standard.
Bicycles and motorbikes
According to the British Crime Survey, more than 500,000 bikes and 26,000 motorbikes are stolen every year.
Lock bicycles and motorbikes to a ground anchor point within the garage or shed, and use a good-quality D-lock or chain – cable locks are easily snapped with bolt-cutters. Again, look for Sold Secure approved locks, gold-rated ones offer the highest level of security.
Use an additional chain or cable lock to secure the frame to the wheels.
The police regularly set up marking events to provide cycle security advice and offer security marking and registration onto BikeRegister’s online database. Registering your bike helps police and retailers identify and verify the legitimate owner of bikes that have been stolen or are being resold. Search https://www.bikeregister.com/events and enter your postcode to find your nearest event. (Please note these events are uploaded to the website by police forces and not BikeRegister, so if you have any questions and queries regarding any of the events, or cannot find an event near you, contact your local police force or British Transport Police.)
CCTV can be a useful burglar deterrent but the police warn that it is no substitute for high-quality physical security. Some CCTV cameras record when they detect movement; some can relay footage directly to your smartphone so you can monitor a scene.
If you wish to install a CCTV system, you should always buy it from a company accredited by either the National Security Inspectorate or the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board. Always get three quotes from three accredited companies.
Use of CCTV in a private domestic dwelling in England and Wales is regulated by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The Act aims to balance people’s right to protect their property with others’ right to privacy. The capturing of images outside your own property is subject to the Data Protection Act.
CCTV systems should always be operated in a way that protects the privacy of others. The installation of CCTV has been the subject of many disputes between neighbours and complaints to the police and Information Commissioner’s Office by people who believe the cameras are being used to spy on them and their families. With this in mind, consider the following questions:
- Do I really need CCTV? Could I use other means to protect my home, such as better lighting and new locks?
- What do I want the CCTV camera to capture? (A front door, parking space, back yard, shed etc)
- How do my neighbours feel about my putting up CCTV? Where can I position the camera to ensure minimal intrusion to my neighbours’ and others’ privacy? If the camera’s range overlooks a neighbour’s property, can I attach privacy filters?
If you do install CCTV on your property, you should:
- Tell your neighbours and put clear, visible signs up on your property informing people that CCTV is in use.
- Make sure the date and time is correctly set on your system
- Cameras should always be located out of reach so they can’t be tampered with, but should also be positioned where you can obtain the best images of people’s faces; check that you can identify people from footage collected.
- Ensure recordings are not used for any other purpose than protecting your property.
- Regularly delete recordings and ensure they are not kept for longer than is necessary for the protection of your property
- Keep all recordings secure and keep access to them to a minimum. Remember that you are responsible for what happens to the information.
- Check your system regularly to ensure it is working properly. Clear away debris and wipe the lens.
Be aware that in the event your CCTV captures images of an incident, your recordings may be used as evidence to help a police investigation. So, you should consider:
- How practicable is it to extract recordings from your system? Can this be done without interrupting the operation of the system?
- Can it be provided in a suitable format without losing image quality or time and date information?
- If you do collect footage that may be used to identify offenders, you should only share this with the police or other relevant law enforcement body. You must never share images or recordings on social media sites. Doing so could jeopardise a police investigation, and any repercussions from such activity will not be covered under the Public Liability Insurance currently offered to Neighbourhood Watch schemes by Neighbourhood Watch Network.
For more information about using CCTV on a domestic property, click here.
Alley gates are lockable gates installed to prevent access by offenders to alleyways, such as those that run along the rear of older-style terraced housing in the UK. Studies show that where alley gates are installed, there is usually a reduction in police-recorded burglaries.
However, alley gates usually have to be made bespoke to the size and requirements of the thoroughfare, so can be prohibitively expensive. Also, as the residents of homes adjacent to the gated alley are generally left to operate the gates, this can cause friction among neighbours.
Of course, if the alley is a public right of way, you can’t just block access to it. And even if it is privately owned, every property owner who borders the alley must agree to have the gates installed, and it isn’t always easy to get this agreement, especially in areas with high numbers of rental properties.
If there is concern about use of an alley, such as anti-social behaviour, and consensus among residents to try and tackle the problem, it is worth approaching your local community policing team or local authority as a collective to consider the options available, rather than installing gates on your own initiative.