/ Home & Energy

Is your home secure this Christmas?

The number of burglaries surge around the festive period. Here, our guest from the Master Locksmiths Association, Dr Steffan George, sets out the ways to keep your home safe.

This is a guest post by Steffan George of the Master Locksmiths Association. All views expressed are Steffan’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

As the weather turns frosty outside and Christmas presents begin to pile up, so too do the number of burglaries in UK homes, with 2018 shaping up to see burglaries at their highest rate for five years.

There are a number of things homeowners can do in order to protect their property and valuables over the holiday period, even if they’re away.

In matters of security, it’s always important to take professional advice and use third party approved products, as well as meeting any insurance requirements necessary.

By implementing some basic security measures, you will not only help to protect your family and add value to a property, but you will prevent potential financial and emotional costs as well.

Whether you own your home or rent, follow these simple tips to help keep you and your family safe and secure over Christmas.

Keeping the lights on

With the majority of break-ins committed by burglars who live nearby, thieves will notice the only house on the street with no Christmas lights twinkling in the windows.

Investing in timer plugs for your lights will make burglars think twice before trying their luck (unless of course their names are Harry and Marv!).

Also make sure you use or install outdoor electrical sockets for those Christmas lights and, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to run cables for outdoor lights through partially open windows or doors.

Holiday snaps

With many people leaving their homes to visit families or go on holiday over the festive period, it’s easy to get excited and tell the world what you’re up to.

However, increasingly thieves are identifying homes to target through social media, so always be mindful when sharing your festive snaps and make sure your social media settings are set to private.

Home security

Home security and CCTV has never been easier or more discreet to install, with many systems now allowing you to login via your smart phone from wherever you are in the world.

It has also been proven that homes with security systems are 300% less likely to be burgled than those without.

A local MLA-approved security expert can advise you on the best equipment available on the market.

Hidden gifts

While most of us love nothing more than to show off our decorating prowess by exhibiting our decorated tree and wrapped presents in the window for all to see, this can be a tempting window-shopping opportunity for thieves in the run-up to Christmas.

So, consider keeping presents hidden away from the Grinch – it may also stop you feeling tempted to have a sneaky peak before the 25th!

Lock and key

It’s important to review your home security and insurance documents to ensure everything is in working order and adequate before the festive season begins.

Check that all locks on doors and windows are correctly fitted and functioning, replacing any that are broken.

30% of burglars enter a home through an unlocked window or door, so it’s also worth reminding family members to check everything has been locked before leaving the house, or going to sleep at night.

For advice on appropriate locks and security solutions for your property, contact your local MLA-approved locksmith. Many will also carry out an initial security assessment free of charge.

This is a guest post by Steffan George of the Master Locksmiths Association. All views expressed are Steffan’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Have you ever been burgled at Christmas, or at any other time of year? What advice would you give people to avoid a similar fate?

Comments

When I first moved into my cottage “by the sea ” I installed (myself ) the now out-of-date–legacy etc -hardwired alarm system .
Windows/doors/movement detectors /etc plus the main electronic control box with access code .It has a battery inside it plus a battery in the alarm box with tamper-proof switches.

it turned out to be pretty secure as a local thief sent his kids around to tap the windows and —the alarm went off then he complained it was making too much noise .

Now ? – I still have it but in this IoT its all remote camera and control remotely systems-
advert—-now you can see that burglar at your door and warn him off remotely etc etc .

Quiz -guess which one of the two is now classed as “most secure ” by the same high tech. company below?

I was going to post a URL by a USA high tech security company supplying/testing big business/ banks/ etc both here and in the USA but thankfully I read down the webpage , it goes into great detail of how to make/buy a signal blocker that allows crooks to enter your home without the alarm going off .
Take note this way of entry doesn’t need access to your online/remote function I can get to those types as well .
Although the technicalities would interest Wavechange – digital electronics I don’t want to post that as well as it would give clues to criminals .
The DIY version costs about $100 and the commercial version over $300 .

What am I saying ? don’t dive out at Christmas time and buy one of those well advertised on TV packages they are a “doddle ” to overcome.
I have bookmarked the website for future reference in case somebody comes on saying – don’t frighten the public – let them buy those flashy “protection units ” –
sorry my principles and morals come before profit.

My front door has a expensive Chubb lock along with an inner door -same on the rear door , I also have sliding bolts and internal locking bolts built into the doors that you use a special ribbed key to bolt with .

Dont get “carried away” at Christmas by buying the first thing you see or your prize possession will be “carried away ” by thieves.
As a side line I used to install house alarm systems ,buying the wholesale so I can advise but real security COSTS ! as that sort of thing always does.

Part two-on IP and cellular monitoring.-

Aside from wireless sensor hacking, another potential threat is hacking of the system’s IP connection (assuming it uses one). There are many alarm systems on the market today that do offer internet based monitoring services as alarm manufacturers know that using regular phone line service is no longer reliable. While anything connected to the internet has the potential to be hacked, all of the professional alarm manufacturers that do offer IP monitoring (such as Honeywell) utilize encrypted internet signaling for the communications from the system to the central station which should greatly minimize the chances of someone being able to hack those signals to defeat the system.

Also, most systems that offer IP communications will also offer cellular communications as well. Cellular monitoring is always more reliable and secure compared to IP only monitoring as cellular monitoring uses a wireless cellular signal to send the alarm signals out from the home so that as long as the system is on and the cellular communicator has proper signal strength, the alarm signal should be sent out. With IP only, an intruder cutting the internet line before breaking in would prevent the alarm signal from being sent or if the property’s network equipment (modem, router, etc) don’t have a battery backup, a simple power outage can keep an IP only system from being able to send an alarm.

Patrick Taylor says:
29 November 2018

“It has also been proven that homes with security systems are 300% less likely to be burgled than those without.” ….” 30% of burglars enter a home through an unlocked window or door”.

I wonder if the English figures are the same:

” Here are some home security statistics that may shock you… And hopefully motivate you to take action
2,000,000 home burglaries are reported each year in the United States.
About 30 percent of all burglaries are through an open or unlocked window or door.
Nearly 66 percent of all burglaries are residential (home) break-ins.
Renters are just as likely to be the victims of property crime as homeowners.
The highest percentage of burglaries occur during the summer months.
Homes without security systems are up to 300% more likely to be broken into.”
safeguardtheworld.com/statistics.html

If they were the same figures the “up to 300%” figure seems more plausible than “300% less likely”.

Seems an unfortunately scaremongering figures to quote from the USA by a Trusted Trader rather than UK figures.

It seems in the UK it is around 1.5% of homes are burgled and I suspect some areas it is more likely, and some people are burgled more than once. The data from here seems to back this up but I would mention this is only data from Moneysupermarkets data which is possibly even probably not a representative sample of the UK burglaries
thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-5279813/UK-burglary-hotspots-revealed-postcode.html

The data is by post code district which is rather misleading in itself as the most populated area may have many more times the domiciles of another post code and there use of Moneysupermarket for quotes may not be uniform.

For instance EX39 has in round figures 15000 household spaces and a rate of 0.78% of burglaries. Another low hit rate is NR20 but that has around 8000 spaces but a burglary rate of 1.63% according to the quotation requests.

An extreme example of using postcode districts there is apparently one with 500 “household spaces” and one has 32,000 “household spaces” looking at the data as per here.
ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/numberofhouseholdsbypostcodearea

Like my neighbours, at present I don’t have a working alarm although they were built with alarms about 20 years ago. It’s a wired system and the cables are concealed in the wall. I’m sure I could reuse the wiring and install an updated system, but the problem is reaching the bell box high up on an outside wall. I might enlist the help of a friend after Christmas because I cannot cope with long ladders.

In my previous homes I did have working alarms and have no idea if they acted as a deterrent, but I never had a burglary. I did check this website for crime statistics before moving home in 2016: https://www.police.uk

Philip Levy says:
11 December 2018

I network with a local MLA Approved locksmith and he showed us how even with a supposed BS cheap lock it can just be snapped and they are in within 20 seconds. Gettinga quality locksmith and high quality locks is vital. Don’t buy the cheap ones!

Well the Police will agree with you Philip and they told me to buy Chub –and I did . But even deadlocks can be overcome or doors kicked in.
As usual very good advice comes from my favourite US help website which most Americans hold in high regard so click on for some good down to earth advice –
https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/door-locks/buying-guide/index.htm

There is good advice in that article referenced by Duncan. Some of the products might not be available in the UK but equivalents probably are. I think the most important thing is to ensure that the final exit door itself and the framework are highly resistant and that any locks are competently fitted.

We had a problem with the front door recently as the latch in the cylinder lock was not engaging correctly with the striking plate. Since new locks had been fitted just after we moved in by a highly-rated locksmith and door furniture company I asked them to attend and remedy the problem. The locksmith who attended dismantled the deadlatch and found that the backplate had been fitted with only one screw instead of three or four. He also found that the butts on the door frame were loose so the door was tending to drop on the opening side. He also took off and slightly repositioned the striking plate to provide a more positive capture of the latch. The original mortice lock needed no adjustment and gives additional protection when we go out but should not be used when the house is occupied because it needs a key to open it. There was no charge for these rectifications.

To comply with UK insurance requirements door locks must be manufactured to the [British Standard] BS3621 specification.

The article talks about the value of good locks versus the “deductible” under an insurance policy. In the UK this is called the “excess” which is the first portion of a loss or claim which is borne by the insured party.