As summer approaches, home security becomes all the more important. There's nothing worse than going on holiday, only to return and find that your valuables have gone on holiday themselves – only the permanent kind.
While it's difficult to protect your home from professional thieves, most burglaries are carried out by amateurs. By following this advice, you can protect your property as best you can by making it less attractive to a would-be burglar.
1) Assess your doors and windows
Pay close attention to the outside of your property, making sure that all windows and doors have secure locks which are still in good condition and properly fitted. It's worth bringing in a locksmith to double-check and make sure that they won't invalidate your insurance should the worst happen and you want to claim. A door with glass panels can be easily broken, so ask a security specialist how you can strengthen or replace it. They'll know all sorts of tactics and will be able to recommend specific measures for you – whether that's fitting pin locks on double-hung windows, adding bolts on doors or resetting hinges.
2) Shield your possessions from view
Have your wits about you, making sure that any house keys and valuables are shielded from view. It's all too easy to leave a key on a window ledge right next to the door. It might be a back door key but it wouldn't take long to reach through a letterbox and high-tail it to the back of a home. Of course, you can't always shield a big TV in a front living room but you can invest in blinds or net curtains to make it harder to peer through the window.
3) Don't use well-known hiding places
We've all heard of the spare key underneath the doormat or in the flower pot. A burglar will always check the common places first – they'll want to make as little noise as possible to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Ideally, don't use a hiding place at all but if you must, come up with somewhere creative!
4) Give the impression someone is home
When the house is in complete darkness, with blinds up or curtains open, it's easy to see that nobody is home and there's a window of opportunity to get in and out. Light timers which go off at set intervals will give the impression you're home and sensor lighting to the front and back doors will put off potential thieves who don't fancy being illuminated for the neighbours to see while they're trying to gain access.
Avoid using light timers in lower level rooms if you've left in the day and have your curtains open though – you'll just make it easy to see that the rooms are empty. Be careful not to give a written indication of when you'll be away too – even if it's just a quick note for the window cleaner in the window which tells them when you'll be back to pay them!
5) Give your alarm system the once-over
If you have a system in place, make sure you change the codes regularly. Video cameras are one step beyond your normal burglar alarm and act as great deterrents. If you don't have any alarms and it's tricky to run a power supply to them, there are solar alarms and battery operated wireless DIY alarm systems out there which don't require any wiring.
6) Lock your garage and shed & mark property
Stumbling across an unlocked shed full of tools is like hitting the jackpot for a would-be burglar, as you're giving them the means to break into your home. Keep yours locked and also mark your tools to make them easy to identify. You could dip them in a certain paint colour or inscribe your signature into handles – anything which would make them easily identifiable as your personal property and therefore harder to sell on.
7) Eliminate hiding places
Make sure you have no bushes and trees situated near windows at the front and back of your home. They can shield a burglar from view, giving them more time to break in unseen.
8) Be wary of people asking to come inside
Sometimes burglars can attempt to gain access to a home to scope it out ahead of carrying out a burglary later on. You can minimise the chances of that happening by asking to see ID before letting anyone into your home.