Protecting your home from thieves

Keep your home safe from criminals

When you’re a home owner, tenant or lodger, there is a variety of excellent routes you can take to ensure your home and property are always fully protected and safe from burglars or intruders. Be sure to check our advice and put into action any areas that need improvement.

As surprising as it is, many people still leave spare home keys outside in case they lose or forget their own keys. Storing additional keys in an outside location such as a shed, garden area, garage or under a doormat is inviting a thief inside. Many criminals will check the most obvious hiding places and by leaving keys easily accessible you are making life simple for a potential intruder. Always attempt to keep sheds, garage areas and other exterior buildings locked and secured, alarming these with a battery powered system if possible.

Night time hours are favoured by burglars

Many burglaries occur during the evening hours or at night time; in fact 58% of break-ins are carried out after dark, with only 34% of burglaries at the weekend period. Ensure you keep curtains or blinds closed during the night, carefully removing any items of value out of sight so they may not be seen outside your property.

Remember not to leave door or window keys in place, within their locks. Always make sure that car keys or outside property keys (like a garage) are hidden from view and especially out of sight from a thief who could be looking through a letterbox.

If you are away or out for any period of time, especially during the night hours, it is a good idea to utilise timing devices for radios, lights and other household appliances. They can give the illusion that someone is resident at home to a thief by switching items on and off, even if the property is empty at the time.

Secure doors and windows

Externally opening doors are recommended to always consist of three points which are lockable. Locks of a mortice nature can add significantly improved safety to a door, purchase these online or via any reputable DIY shop. Deadlocks fitted to doors can prevent a thief from exiting your home after stealing, but never compromise your personal safety and ensure security improvements do not ever prevent a safe exit in case of emergency such as fire.

Remember to close doors and windows, even if leaving your home for a short period, thieves only need a moment to steal! When new metal or PVC built windows and doors are fitted to a property, check if these will come with an included chain and locks attached, adding these afterwards can sometimes be expensive and difficult.

Older windows or those that have no security can be easy routes inside, look into safeguarding these further with window locks. They can be a preventative nature in stopping a thief from entering your property, particularly where windows in place are single glazed or of older designs. Specially designed locks for patio doors and openings should be used at all times and added to unsafe areas, a locksmith or online service can advise further.

Lighting and CCTV

To discourage a thief from checking your property, well lit areas using security lighting and other means are advisable, alongside a good burglar alarm system which is highly visible to any unwanted visitor. Always ensure that lights do not affect your neighbours or cause any unwanted nuisance and alarm systems have an automatic cut off after a twenty minute period. CCTV systems can also be an excellent deterrent in stopping thieves in your locality.

Spy holes fitted to doors can be an excellent way in which to first see who is on the doorstep, before a door is opened. Always remember, Stop, Chain and Check especially when not expecting a visitor to call or if they are unknown.

Garden and outside property security is vital, do not place temptation within an easy route for thieves, remove this from sight and keep in locked garages or sheds. Leaving ladders and garden tools outside can be equipping the thief with an easier method of break in. Fit quality built padlocks to secure outside property areas if they have no locks in place.

Installing secure fences, shrubbery, trees and walled areas to protect your home can inadvertently lead to giving a wary thief the needed protection to go unseen whilst breaking in to a property. Consider replacing these with trellis areas, fencing of chain-link nature or shrubs that are prickly and sharp.

Security mark personal items and valuables

Remember to always security mark your property and possessions with a marking product, these are easy to obtain and can be an excellent way in identifying or recovering stolen property.

Finally, neighbourhood watch schemes that operate in your communities are an excellent source of further advice and help, as is your local police service or crime prevention officer.

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Bank Holiday Burglars

Police warn over expected crime rates during bank holidays

With the sheer amount of bank holidays during April and May, with hopefully expectant sunnier weather, the organised or opportunist thief is set to invade homes, burgle and steal property from under our noses.

Lovely summery climates always encourage home owners to open windows and doors to allow the cool breeze to circulate, but by leaving entrances open to burglars it presents a perfect invitation for the thief to invade your privacy and steal valuables.

Typical increases in the amount of burglaries are often seen during the warmer seasons of the UK. Whereas more insecure properties can experience an unwanted break in at any point of the year, a third of burgled homes easily let the thief in. They are allowed to effortlessly stroll into the area via doors which are not secured or locked, and simply by grabbing possessions from inside an opened window.

Consider that while you sit outside, enjoying the bank holiday with a leisurely approach, that a thief could be lurking in the background ready to hurriedly enter your property, without any knowledge.

A burglar only requires a few seconds to take goods and items from your home. With the added benefit of open entrance ways, this process is remarkably easy for bold thieves. By locking windows and doors, even when you are outside or located within your home, can drastically reduce or prevent the likelihood of a burglar preying on your property.

Ensure valuable items are not on display within open windows or through transparent doors, place them well out of the way and temptation from a would-be thief.

Follow these easy pointers to help in protecting your property

  • Ensure keys are not left in locks and move these from being seen. It is not a good idea to leave them on tables or hooks nearby.
  • When out, make sure that windows have been closed, move items of worth out of a thief’s view or reach.
  • As dusk draws in and it becomes darker, curtains and blinds should be closed to prevent the inside of properties from being externally viewed.
  • To confuse a thief you can set timing switches to activate lights on and off, this can make it appear you are home, even if out.
  • Remember, always dial ’999′ in an emergency or ring your local police force contact telephone number. To report crime anonymously, Crimestoppers can be reached on 0800 555 111.
  • List stolen property on our free listings to help get maximum coverage.
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Thieves and firearms

Gun Law and Crime in the UK

The UK has some of the strictest gun laws in the whole world. If you want to own a gun, the law makes it very difficult to do so and you will be subject to stringent controls. This of course is bad news to the thief, as possessing a gun legally is not as simple as it sounds.

Gun laws exist to try and avert terrible tragedies such as the recent Northumberland and Cumbrian shootings by Raoul Moat and Derrick Bird respectively in 2010, the 1987 Hungerford killings by Michael Ryan and the Dunblane massacre in 1996 committed by Thomas Hamilton.

However, even with stringent laws, these individuals managed to carry out their evil crimes.

During 2007, nine young people lost their lives in shootings, 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool was one of them. There were 59 firearms related murders in 2006 -2007, compared with 49 in the 2005 – 2006. That represents an 18% rise in just one year.

There were 507 serious injuries from firearms, that’s more than one incident a day. However, the trend in gun crime overall has been going down. This indicates that even with atrocities like these, the UK has one of the lowest rates of gun-related murders in the world. This is a figure that is four times lower than the USA, for example.

What are the Gun Laws in the UK?

In England and Wales, firearms and guns are subject to controls under the Firearms Act 1968, which has been amended several times in response to tragedies like Hungerford and Dunblane.

In Northern Ireland, the laws are covered by the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 and are slightly more relaxed. In Scotland, gun laws are a bit more stringent due to the Dunblane murders, and they are subject to the Scotland Act 1998. This is under review with a view to tightening up the laws further to include legislation for air rifles which have been responsible for an alarming increase in misuse in recent years.

Any person who owns a firearm must hold a relevant certificate to prove that they are a suitable person to possess a weapon. There are two types of certificate that can be issued: a Shotgun Certificate or a Firearms Certificate.

Firearms or Shotgun Certificate?

There are some differences between the two certificates and the processes which an individual needs to go through in order to be granted one of them. A Firearms Certificate is generally harder to obtain because you have to explain why you need the weapon and justify your case for owning it.

Firearms Licences are normally only issued if the person applying can show that they have a genuine sporting or work-related reason for owning a weapon.

Shotguns are treated differently because there is the stance that, in the UK, anyone is theoretically entitled to own a shotgun as they are traditionally used for hunting and pest control purposes.

Shotguns (Section 2 Firearms under the 1968 Act as amended) are defined in UK law as ‘smoothbore’ firearms with barrels not shorter than 24 inches (60 cm) and a bore not larger than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, no revolving cylinder, and either no magazine or a non-detachable magazine that is not capable of holding more than two cartridges’. They are subject to slightly less rigorous checks and an individual can own as many shotguns as they like, as long as they can prove that they have safe storage capacity for all of them.

What are the regulations?

In order to obtain one of these documents, you need to apply to your local police station. The Police keep a register of all the firearms owners in the area. They hold details of the make, model and serial number of all weapons and they carry out checks to ensure that the person in control of the weapon is of sound character and has no previous criminal convictions, such as theft or burglary.

Anyone who has received a conviction of a sentence over three years will be disqualified for life from owning a gun or other weapon and ammunition. Anyone with a lesser conviction will be banned for 5 years.

The certificate holder must show that the weapons are kept in a secure, locked cupboard or storage area and they will need to apply every 5 years for a new certificate, giving two good character references.

They also need to produce a statement by their GP to confirm that they are fit to own a gun. A Firearms Enquiry Officer must also inspect the premises where the gun or weapon is kept. Once all these conditions can be satisfied, a licence will be granted.

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Keep safe from the distraction burglar

Distraction Burglaries

This underhanded crime is performed by tricksters and fraudulently presenting individuals or groups, who attempt to deceive home occupiers into letting them enter a property.

Con artists use different methods (e.g. posing as an official or tradesperson) to attempt in entering homes or property. Once successfully inside, thieves are looking to perpetrate a burglary. Those who experience this kind of distressing crime can experience physical injuries and symptoms, as well as those on an emotional level.

Physical force to enter a property is worryingly on the increase and criminals often intimidate older people who are sometimes more vulnerable to trespass. Members from this group of society can often by highly impacted by the theft of valuable possessions, which sadly can lead to deaths within the elderly population. These are occasionally triggered by a negative health reaction from the resulting mental or physical trauma that is experienced by the individual.

As the typical age of a person who is the unwilling participant within a distraction burglary is around 80 years old, it is important to safeguard yourself if you reside in this age bracket. For those who have older friends, relatives and neighbours, ensuring they are armed with information and help to keep protected is absolutely vital.

If there is an unexpected visitor at the front door, remember they could be a bogus caller. If you’re not expecting them, you are always entitled to leave the door closed, it is your property. Follow the advice in our bogus caller information by checking the person’s identity directly with the organisation they claim to represent. Remember, do not use any contact numbers given to you by the caller, they could be false.

Safeguard yourself and property

Follow these further tips to protect against a potential distraction burglary:

  • Consider safeguarding extremely valuable items within a safe or other protected storage area. Try not to store sizeable amounts of cash within your property, it is more secure when properly banked.
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  • By ensuring your windows are closed and locked you can prevent unwanted entry from the caller or any accomplices, whilst they attempt to distract you.
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  • Doors should also be secured properly with adequate locks and chains. Remember, always puts the chain on before you open the door, this will not offend genuine callers. Always keep in mind, Stop, Chain, Check. If you’re not sure of the caller, simply do not answer the door. If the callers are valid visitors then it is likely they will call back again with a formal appointment.
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  • Many utility companies, other organisations or businesses now use a password scheme. This secured system means that anyone who calls at the door should be able to give you a password that you have already chosen or been made aware of. If a caller can’t supply it, be highly suspicious. Remember those who claim to be visiting from the ‘water board’ are probably lying, this is an out of date term that is only used by fake visitors.
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  • Those criminals engaged in distraction burglaries will often operate together in groups. So, always make sure that where one person enters your property, the door is then closed and secured after they access your home. This can then prevent other burglars working in a team from covertly creeping through an opened doorway.
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  • Get in touch with a close neighbour, family member or friend in the area by telephone and ask them to support you to ascertain the identity of any callers before the door is opened. ‘Nominated neighbour schemes’ exist in some parts of the UK, which can also help. Police forces in your area can put you in touch with any that could be local.
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  • Finally, be on your guard if a visitor to your doorstep is seeking any assistance. Perhaps they are claiming a glass of water is needed, a lost ball needs retrieving, or other similar excuse to gain entry within your property. If you feel able to offer any help to the caller, ensure this is always done via a secured door that has not been opened. You can also decide to ask a neighbour, friend or family member to assist you further.

    If there is any concern around your safety, never hesitate to call the police, using ’999′.

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Practical steps to take after theft

What to do after a theft

If you have been the unfortunate victim of a crime where something has been stolen, it can be quite a distressing, anxious and stressful time. Therefore, it is quite understandable that it could be more difficult than normal to try and remember everything you need to do.

Being the victim of any sort of theft is a very traumatic experience and can be very upsetting for quite a while after the event. Try to stay calm because there are people who can help if this does happen to you.

Car Theft

If your car is stolen, call the police. This is not considered to be an emergency (unless you were attacked or injured as it was being stolen) so you should telephone or go straight to your local police station to report it. Make sure you get a crime reference number from the police. This will be needed by your insurance company.

Call your insurance company. They will open up a claim for you and they will explain to you what will happen next. Make sure you have the vehicle details to hand as well as a list of any items that were in the car when it was stolen.

If you have a lease on the car, then you should notify the company that leased the vehicle to you.

Stolen Wallet, Purse or Handbag

Call your bank immediately and report your cards as being stolen. Make sure you know what telephone number to call, so write it down and keep it in a safe place. Also keep a list of the numbers to call to report any lost credit cards, loyalty cards, library cards etc that were in the wallet or purse.

Report the theft to your local police station by either telephoning or visiting the station. Give as much details as possible of the colour, shape etc of wallet, purse or bag description of thief, where it happened etc.

Burglary

If you find you have been burgled, do not touch anything. Report the incident to the police straight away. If you have insurance, telephone the insurance provider for advice. Make a list of what has been stolen and provide photos of valuable items.

Pet Missing or Stolen

Phone the local vets first because your pet may have been involved in an accident. Ask neighbours if they have seen the animal. Make posters, using a clear, recent photo of your pet and place them in areas which will be seen by as many people as possible. Leaflet neighbours houses as well as homes in nearby streets. Use an online pet search website, they can often reach the whole country. Telephone your pet insurance provider. They might be able to help with offering a reward and providing publicity to assist in getting your pet back.

Mobile Phone Theft

Remember the three steps: Register, Report, Reunite.

Register: you can register the details of your handset with The National Mobile Property Register. This will help the police to return your phone to you if it is stolen. You should also make sure your phone is registered with your network provider, especially Pay As You Go phones.

Report: report it immediately to the police. You should also contact your mobile phone network provider. They can block both the handset and the SIM card so that they cannot be used any more.

Reunite: If the police do recover your stolen handset, it’s a lot easier for them to reunite you with your phone if it is registered. They can match up the serial number to your name and address and get it back to you quickly.

 

 

 

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Stop the ‘bump key’ thief

The danger of Bump Keys

The terminology might be an entirely new one to you, but it is certainly worth taking a few moments to learn what a ‘bump key’ is and the danger it poses to security when in the hands of an unscrupulous thief. A bump key will give a burglar or thief the capability to break into your home or property very easily, quietly and swiftly.

Whether a standard Yale lock or even uPVC type is accessed, the ‘bumping’ method can be equally successful. A thief can tap a bump key into the lock, easily gaining unlocked access in seconds. The process of ‘lock bumping’ is a method employed to open a tumbler ‘pin type’ lock by use of a specifically created ‘bump key’. A single key will successfully operate all similar locks within the same type.

Easy for thieves to break in

Using the key doesn’t require any other specialist tools and it can be a fruitful technique without any particular training, unlike the acquired skills of the lock picker. As they can be easily made from any widespread available key, the bump key risks are very real to many different properties that exist in the UK.

Bump keys are available via the internet for those who are seeking to engage in illegal activities and will be successful in opening the majority of locks. It is also quite a simple process to make these in a ‘DIY’ style or source directly from a locksmith or other key trader.

Within the United Kingdom the majority of locks available for purchase in DIY and hardware retailers can easily be unlocked using just a tiny collection of bump keys. When the thief gains entry to property using such a key, it leaves practically no residual proof that the method has been carried out, leaving unsuspecting property owners baffled concerning a possible theft. Many victims then believe their property has been accidentally left unsecured instead. In these cases insurance companies are unlikely to pay out on voided policies as the assumption that owners were responsible for a break in and subsequent theft will potentially be made.

Confidential information

Within the locksmith trade, professionals have known for many years about the use of the bump key. Now, because of modern technological ‘viral’ methods on the internet, this easy to practice method is now becoming known to many millions of individuals. Online web sites are in existence that openly sell the bump key equipment to any visiting buyer and they can also be sourced via electronically based auction type services.

Once obtained, the key apparatus can easily be cloned using traditionally available key cutting services from a whole host of sources across the country. Whereas those eager to empower themselves with safety information will use the knowledge to safeguard their property further, for the prospective thief it is an invaluable, yet simple method, of stealing valuable possessions from homes and business premises, within any part of the world.

Defend property from bump key thieves

It is possible to address the problem of bump keys and defend your property effectively from the thief. Locks that are bump key proofed are now in existence to purchase and fit to homes or commercial properties, higher security designed locks can stop thieves in their tracks. Even though extra secured locks that cannot be opened by use of a ‘bump’ are often more expensive than a standard, at-risk lock, the investment is a smaller price to pay for such countermeasures.

Higher security locks can prevent burglars from illegally acquiring property and items of worth and we recommend Locks Online to purchase your lock equipment needs. Saunderson Security also have an excellent choice of locks to buy online, to safeguard your property.

Thieves leave a costly price in their wake for property owners. With the estimated cost of most common burglaries being around £1500 at least, it is worth securing property effectively. So, keep one step ahead of bump key thieves, have bump proofed locks fitted as soon as possible.

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