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Burglars will use a variety of ways to avoid being noticed.

They don’t want to be seen or heard by a neighbour or passer-by because they will feel exposed and identifiable.

Distraction burglars will pretend to be someone they are not, so it’s important you are aware of the common methods they will use to get you to let them into your property.

Here’s some useful advice, firstly on helping to keep burglars out by giving them no hiding place and, secondly, on how to prevent a distraction burglary.

Keep it visible

You’d think that it would be best to make a property less visible from the street, and to keep it hidden from prying eyes behind overgrown bushes, trees, high fences or walls. In reality, all that this serves to do is make it easier for a burglar to get close to a home unnoticed, and provide somewhere to hide while carrying out a burglary or theft from the property.

  1. Lower fences at the front around one-metre high are preferable to high fences as they allow for a clear view over the top and don’t provide cover for anyone wishing to hide.
  2. At the rear and sides, taller fencing is recommended to prevent easy access.
  3. Trellis, thorny plants, or a suitable anti-climb topping such as plastic spikes make it difficult for anyone climbing over a fence or gate.
  4. Planting prickly or barbed shrubbery along boundaries and fence lines acts as an effective natural barrier.
  5. Gravel driveways and paths will make sure you hear anyone approach.

Other ways to make it difficult for burglars

CCTV

  • By using well-defined boundaries as a basis, CCTV can be a valuable tool. However, it doesn’t prevent a crime from being committed and does have limitations.
  • CCTV linked to a smartphone will alert you to someone crossing your boundary. 
  • Most importantly, CCTV is no substitute for good quality physical security such as secure doors and windows.
  • Some cameras work by day and by night, and record when they detect movement. Some can be remotely viewed from a smartphone.
  • Position cameras where they are best able to obtain good quality facial images. Could you recognise or identify someone from the footage? 
  • There is legislation for home CCTV use, so always seek advice from an accredited installer first to ensure your system complies with the law.  
  • Place signage up warning that CCTV is in use.  
  • For advice and approved suppliers of CCTV visit the National Security Inspectorate and the Security Systems and Alarms Inspections Board.

Alarms

  • Consider an accredited burglar alarm system with audible alarm boxes mounted high at the front and rear of your home. Two visible audible alarm boxes are better than one. Mount them at the front and rear of your home, high up to resist tampering.
  • There are three types of burglar alarm, varying in capability and cost:  
  1. Monitored – Once triggered, an alarm company or designated key holder can check to ensure it isn't a false alarm. 
  2. Unmonitored – This type, once activated, will sound a loud alarm designed to scare off an intruder and alert neighbours but they are reliant on someone such as a neighbour checking the house.  
  3. Auto Dialler – This system, once activated, alerts pre-programmed key holders with either a text or a phone call.  
  • The police will typically respond to a burglar alarm if requested to do so by a monitoring company but are less likely to respond to an unmonitored alarm.  
  • If you have an extension to your home remember to extend your burglar alarm coverage as well.  
  • Signage is an effective deterrent if used with an active alarm system.

Lighting

External lighting

Lighting is a good deterrent and is recommended at doors as it makes it safer for you when coming and going after dark.  

A clear, low white light that activates at dusk to dawn is ideal for lighting a yard and garden and allowing any person to be clearly seen.

Check to make sure that trees and plants do not obscure your lighting. It’s recommended that you regularly cut vegetation back.  

Take care to position these lights so that light pollution doesn’t annoy your neighbours. 

Internal lighting

Use an automatic plugin time switch to operate a lamp or light at pre-set times when you’re away.  

Energy saving LED bulbs are best as they do not use as much electricity, last longer than conventional bulbs and do not generate heat, reducing fire risk.  

In blocks of flats, automatic low energy lights that detect movement are recommended for corridors, stairwells and communal areas such as car parks and cycle stores.

Window security

Burglars target windows as they can offer easier access than doors. Check how your windows look from the outside, removing potential access points where you can.

Are there walls, bins or garden furniture that could be used to reach windows? For windows that are within reaching distance such as ground floors, see our tips below.

  1. Laminated glass or security film is recommended for ground floor and accessible windows.
  2. Sash stops prevent anyone opening the sash window enough to climb through.
  3. Key operated locks are recommended for window types that open out, rather than up, and any ground floor or accessible windows. Remember, window locks are only effective if used, so check that you have locked them before you leave home or go to bed.
  4. Window opening restrictors allow you to ventilate your home but make sure they can’t be picked and unlocked from outside.
  5. If you’re replacing your windows, always consider a security accredited product as these windows are tested to British standards and are insurance approved. A good standard is PAS 24 2016.  

Distraction burglary

Distraction burglars pretend to be someone they are not in order to gain entry to your home.

Common methods used by distraction burglars

  • Pretending to be from a care agency, the council or a utility company investigating a gas or water leak
  • Seeking help to leave a note for a neighbour or even asking for a drink of water if they claim to be thirsty or unwell
  • Claiming to be in a hurry or emergency and needing to get into your home quickly
  • Working in teams, with one person distracting you while the other searches your home

How to prevent it

There are a number of things you can do to prevent distraction burglary. Always remember "if in doubt, keep them out":

  • Use your door viewer to see who’s there
  • If you open the door put the chain on first
  • Always ask for ID and check it with the company before letting somebody into your home
  • Use the phone number advertised in the phone book or online, as the number on their identity card could be fake. For a utility company, call the customer service department. Close the door while you do this
  • Remember that genuine callers won’t mind checks. If you feel at all unsure, schedule a time for the caller to come back when a friend or relative is there
  • For pre-planned appointments with utility companies, a password scheme can be set up

If you feel threatened or in danger by the presence of the caller, call 999.

Keeping your shed or garage safe and secure

Many people don’t secure their shed or garage in the same way they do their homes - often using an easy-to-break lock or padlock to protect valuable contents such as a car, bike or lawnmower.

An opportunistic burglar will try a shed or garage first because they can find the tools they need to break into the main house.

Shed and outbuilding security: first steps

First off, check that your insurance covers the contents of your shed or outbuildings from theft.

Think like a thief

Take a look at your shed and consider how you would break in. It’s worth having a good padlock on the door with no exposed screws. Pay attention to hinges, as these are sometimes easily removable. If you have windows then these could be vulnerable unless they’re secured with wire mesh or grills. And keep it locked at all times.

Alarm it

Consider a battery-operated shed alarm. They look low key but they respond to movement or door contact with an extremely loud siren.

Lock it, hide it or mark it

Don’t give them the opportunity or the tools to commit a crime. Lock everything away securely. Tools can be locked inside a locker or box or secured with a chain.

Secure your bike to the ground or a lockable stand within a locked shed or garage.

It’s always worth draping an old sheet or blanket over the top of mowers or bikes to keep them covered from view.

Although it might sound like stating the obvious, never leave your garage or shed door unlocked if you’re not around.

Property marking your items is advisable and some tools can be painted with your name or postcode. Forensic marking is also an option. 

The top five most common items stolen from sheds

  1. Bikes
  2. Mowers
  3. Sports equipment
  4. Power tools
  5. Garden tools