Dark nights return: protect your home 

The clocks are going back on the 29th October as daylight saving ends, which may be good news for some - an extra hour in bed! It does however, also mean the start of leaving work in the dark for many.

Furthermore, Home Office crime statics show a 20% uplift in burglaries when the darker nights draw in. Darkness provides cover for burglars, as well as tell-tale signs that your home is unoccupied.

A recent survey by Policy Expert found that we do make attempts to protect our homes as the darker nights draw in, with the average British home owner spending around £500 on home security measures. 10% take it even further spending over £1,000, and 3% of those spend over £3,000. Having external lighting fitted is often the first thing people tend to do when improving home security, with 70% investing in it to reduce hiding places for thieves. However, they also found that ¼ of people fail to put in place any additional security measures whatsoever when daylight saving ends, potentially exposing properties to a greater risk of burglary.

We’ve compiled a list of things you can do to protect your property during the darker months and drive thieves away. Don’t make your house their latest target.

Keep the curtains closed

If your curtains or blinds are closed, burglars can’t see inside your house. During winter months, this is often the first sign that a house is unoccupied, no lights on and curtains open, can act as an invitation to thieves. Keeping your curtains closed also means people cannot see inside your property and therefore cannot see what expensive items you may have. If you leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark, just keep your curtains closed Monday to Friday.

Use timers on electrical appliances

Setting timers on electrical appliances can help to give the impression that a property is occupied. This can be done with lamps by putting timer switches on them to have them come on when it gets dark. Similarly, other electrical appliances such as TVs and radios can be set to come on with timers (many TVs and radios have this setting built in – sometimes an alarm function) and this may also help to give the impression someone is in. Alternatively, if you did not want to leave the TV switched on, a TV simulator light that can be purchased for under £20. They produce a flickering light as a TV would, but they don’t use the same amount of electricity as leaving a TV switched on would. These can normally be set to come on a dusk and be set to stay on for a certain period of time.

Move valuables out of sight

It’s very important to ensure your valuables are kept out of sight as this may prove tempting for criminals and make your home a target. If you leave expensive jewellery or a laptop on a window ledge, a thief is more likely to see burgling your house as a risk worth taking because they know there are valuables available. Make sure valuables are put away and out of sight.

Have good outside lighting

Invest in some good exterior lighting if you don’t have any. Sensor flood lights can put a burglar in full view exposing them, as well as a bright light altering the attention of both yourself, and your neighbours during the darker nights. It’s important that these are installed on both the front and the back of your house.

Make friends with your neighbours

Let a neighbour that you trust know your usual working hours, that way if they notice activity at your house when you’re meant to be at work, they can alert you. Similarly, let a trustworthy neighbour know if you’re going to be away or home late as they will likely be willing to keep an eye on things for you. If you are going to be away for more than a day or two, it would be a good idea to ask them if they would actively check on your property, coming inside to see if everything is okay at intervals whilst you’re away.

Don’t leave your calendar in view

Having your calendar in view of a window shows a burglar exactly when you are going to be out of the house – it shows appointments, when you’re on holiday, or when you may be out with friends. Make sure your calendar cannot be seen from a window or you may be giving a burglar all the information they need.

Install a visual burglar alarm

Make sure you have a good quality burglar alarm installed in your home, and that you actually use it, switching it on whenever you leave the property, or whilst you’re in bed. A burglar alarm is a massive deterrent to a burglar as they do not want to cause a scene, they want to get in and out as quietly as possible, and so the presence of an active alarm may put them off attempting to break into your property. Furthermore, your insurance policy will likely be void if you do not use your alarm, if your policy was based on the assumption that you have one. Having pets is not an excuse for not setting an alarm as they can be zoned to avoid certain rooms, so pets can stay in these rooms whilst you are out and not set off the alarm. The same goes for when you go to bed, make sure you set the alarm for the rooms you are not using, then no one will be sneaking around downstairs whilst you’re asleep.

Keep side gates locked

Allowing easy access to the rear of your property can make a burglar’s task less difficult as it provides them with cover that the front of the property wouldn’t. They can gain access to the property with a far smaller chance of anyone seeing them. The backs of properties are often less secure than the front, as most security efforts are normally made to the front. Patio and French doors also give a burglar more opportunities for access. You should not only lock any back gates when not using them, but make them hard to climb - do not place bins next to the gate as they can act like a step, making it easier for a burglar to climb over.

Lock sheds and outbuildings

If you don’t lock sheds and outbuildings, you have potentially given thieves easy access to the tools and equipment they need to break in to your property. Make sure they are locked and secured.

Don’t hide keys outside

Do not leave keys under plant pots, in letter boxes or under the door mat, these are the first places thieves are likely to look. By placing your keys here, you have given a thief easy access to your home, they can simply unlock the door. A better option if you need to keep a spare key handy is to purchase a small key box that can be fitted near your front door. These are normally accessed by a combination and are far more secure then hiding a key.

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