Tips on how to avoid being burgled by someone whose house was just burgled
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Over the festive season, I was given the Christmas gift of burglary.
I wouldn't say it was my favourite Yuletide present - packs of socks and five calendars (people either think I'm very or not at all organised) obviously claimed that title - but we did get off fairly lightly.
Not much was taken, though drawers were upturned, boxes emptied and, devastatingly, one reindeer-themed Christmas present trampled on.
Gadgets, jewellery, Christmas presents and electronics were left, and it seemed they were on the hunt for cash (I could have told them I'm an almost 100% cashless being).
I thought I was fairly well up on security. As a worrier, I've been aware of the possibility of a break-in since moving home (along with fires, floods, storm damage, the Bubonic Plague and other rational homeowner concerns), but I've found myself thrust into a new year of security tips and tricks.
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So with the help of Norfolk police, who are clearly far more knowledgeable than I, here are some tips. Some obvious, yes. But if even one catches your eye, I might have saved you the wonderful feeling of knowing someone has rooted through your undies drawer.
• The obvious. Lock everything. Doors, windows, windows you think are too small for a human to get through. Is it worth the risk? Remind family and friends to do the same if visiting.
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• Remove the keys. I'd read somewhere that it's safer to keep keys in the locks, so it's harder for someone to fiddle them. There's also a fire safety element of being able to get out, quick. But, now cottoning on to what the rest of the world probably knew, if anything it's a draw for burglars. Not only does it give them the promise of grabbing the key if they smash through nearby glass, but it's also a guaranteed exit route.
• Move your wheelie bins. Up against a gate or fence they are a very helpful entry or exit step.
• Half of the battle is deterring anyone with bad intentions, so lights are key. Leave low-energy lights on while you're out, put lamps and electronics on a timer switch or install motion sensor lights at the front and rear of your property (ideally ones that won't keep Pam next door up all night).
• Deadbolt your door - latch locks can be handy (particularly if you're in the habit of forgetting to lock up in the first place), but deadbolts are more secure.
• Think of greenery - hedges and shrubs can be nice for privacy, but also excellent hiding places for burglars.
• Make your security visible - whether it's a fake alarm system or a state-of-the-art camera set-up, make sure it's visible. It might well help in catching someone (if it's real), but the goal is to stop them coming in the first place.
• Keep valuables out of sight, and make sure they're properly marked, including making a note of serial numbers. Don't leave things that can be used to break into your house, such as hammers or gardening tools, on display.
• Get prickly. Plant something that might put off potential burglars by gates, fences or windows.
• And get smart. They're not cheap, but there's plenty of smart security systems out there, which, relying on a wifi connection, keep track of your home and can ping any concerns or alerts straight your pocket (which will presumably contain a smartphone).