Don't make it easy pickings

As the clocks go back on Sunday police are preparing for a spate of burglaries as thieves seek easy pickings. But we can all take steps to make our homes safer.

As the clocks go back on Sunday police are preparing for a spate of burglaries as thieves seek easy pickings. But we can all take steps to make our homes safer. Crime correspondent BEN KENDALL asks: 'How easy is it to burgle my house?'

Before crime reduction specialist PC Paul Sankey visited my house in Norwich I was pretty confident that my security measures were sufficiently robust. The doors are solid and permanently locked, I never leave windows open and, well, that's about it.

But the crime prevention survey he carried out opened my eyes and made me realise how naïve I had been. Thieves are opportunists and there is a catalogue of methods they could use to infiltrate my home.

Perhaps the most glaring faux pas on my part was leaving a hammer and chisel outside my back door following a spot of DIY.

I couldn't help but be amused by my own stupidity but needless to say the items would provide would-be thieves with the tools they need to force there way in.

Now I know what you're thinking: you would never be so careless as to repeat my mistake. But according to PC Sankey there is at least one seemingly obvious error uncovered on each inspection - if it's not tools, it's a spade or a brick or another oversight all together.

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By taking a few simple, and often cheap, steps we can increase the security of our homes tenfold. At this time of year one of the key ways is to ensure properties are probably lit to put a seed of doubt into criminal minds.

Traditionally burglaries peak in the month following the end of British summertime and this year police are seeking to reduce this peak.

So far this month there have been 50 burglaries in Norwich. In previous autumns burglaries have increased by as much as 80pc as the nights close in.

To many people leaving a light on in their front room when they go out has become a habit in a bid to deter burglars. While this is a good idea it is often not the best option - it may simply highlight the fact the room is empty.

PC Sankey said: “Householders are always more vulnerable at this time of the year primarily because it becomes more obvious when properties are unoccupied.

“The best idea is to experiment. Switch on various lights in the house and see how it looks from the outside.

“For example leaving a light on at the rear of the property or upstairs may actually put more doubt into the thief's mind. Decide for yourself what is most effective in terms of making the property look occupied.

“Another option is light timers or photosensitive bulbs which come on as darkness falls. To many people this is a good option because it is more energy efficient. Failing that, choose a room with an energy saving bulb in it and leave that on.”

Other mistakes uncovered at my house included keys being left within reach of the front door. All it would take was a few twists of a wire coat hanger and they would have free entry.

The rear of my property had a wooden panel door - which has since been replaced. These are particularly vulnerable as they often give way after one swift kick.

Finally I made the mistake of leaving valuable items, including the thieves favourite of a laptop computer, on display for anybody walking past my window. I may as well have left a sign up saying “please burgle me”.

Needless to say such mistakes have since been rectified. But apparently my home was by no means among the worst as many householders take far great risks.

Among the measures that can be taken are installing burglar alarms at a cost of between £14.99 and £270; fitting outdoor lights at a cost of between £5 and £35; and installing timer switches indoors for a little as £5.

Anyone requiring advice or information about home security or to enquire about a crime prevention survey for their home, contact the crime reduction department at Bethel Street police station in Norwich on 0845 4564567.

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