Baffling the Burglar – How to avoid this unwanted guest this winter

Winter arrived a couple of weeks ago in the UK and this year it arrived with a bang. The worst storm since 1987 with howling 100 mph winds, torrential rain and frightening conditions for most of southern England and Wales.

The dark evenings, drawing in ever earlier now that the clocks have gone back, provide idyllic conditions for unwanted burglars. Halifax Home Insurance suggests that the average cost of a claim for winter burglary was £1,746 per incident in 2012 with the insurer paying out almost £13 million in winter burglary claims, 21% rise compared to the summer months.

Interestingly Aviva has completed some research on what happens on one particular day – Bonfire night traditionally on the 5th November. The insurance provider reveals that those holding firework parties at home risk providing a spark of opportunity to thieves by leaving their doors unlocked and windows unchecked on what is the worst day of the year for burglary.

Collating 10 years of research, Aviva data reveals that you are 22% more likely to have a theft on Bonfire Night compared to the average day. In fact their survey of 2,500 UK homeowners revealed that one in five (19%) households holding a party in their garden admit to leaving the back door unlocked to make it easier for friends and neighbours to come and go as they please. And over one in ten (13%) even go as far as leaving the front door unlocked.

James Wyatt, partner of the award-winning Barton Wyatt estate agency in Virginia Water, North Surrey comments:

“The cover of darkness can create the perfect environment for petty thieves looking for an easy target. Some of the homes here in leafy Surrey have large wooded areas adjoining them with plenty of evergreen bushes to hide in and as the houses do not overlook each other you are less protected by your neighbours twitching their curtains and keeping a vigilant eye on your house.”

However despite these potential opportunities to get up to no good, Virginia Water in Surrey saw declining burglary figures between the years ending June 2011 and June 2012 according to official Police Crime Figures with burglary rates across North Surrey well below the national average.

James Wyatt, himself a North Surrey resident, suggests:

“Savvy owners in the area have been installing a plethora of equipment to beat the burglars and it appears to be working. The equipment ranges from CCTV, external lights, keyless gated entry and one house we are selling has a finger recognition keypad so that keys are surplus to requirement completely.”

Research from Aviva home insurance shows that women are more security savvy than men, with 82% making sure all doors are locked before leaving the house (compared to 72% of men). Women are also more likely to ensure that valuables are stored safely out of sight and not visible from the outside (60% compared to 47% of men).

Top 10 tips to beat the burglars this Bonfire Night

1. Give the impression that someone is home by leaving the radio on a talk-back station and a few lights on.
2. Use a timer switch to ensure your lights will come on as it goes dark and use eco-bulbs to save money on bills.
3. Avoid telling strangers who know your address, such as delivery men or salespeople, that your house is likely to be empty at any particular time.
4. Don’t leave any valuables in your car. If belongings are too big to carry, make sure to conceal them well or leave them at home, safely out of sight.
5. If you’re holding a party at home, don’t leave a sign on your front door telling guests to meet you in the garden or ‘come around the back’.
6. Make sure all front doors and windows are locked.
7. Try not to have the music too loud if you’re having a party – burglars might think that makes your house an easy target.
8. Put the car or bikes in the garage and don’t leave your keys in an obvious place.
9. Use all the locks and bolts on your doors – they’re there for a reason!
10. Don’t put spare keys in obvious places like under the doormat or a flower pot

Examples of houses that are on the market and have security already installed:

A double award nominated home, Strawberry Fields is an elegant Cotswold manor home which has been built by the current owner with much flair and design for their own occupation.

The house has CCTV installed already. There are large ornate mirrors in the sitting, dining and master bedroom which double as plasma screens; with a quick toggle you can turn your TV into a monitor which displays the CTV. Perfect to see who is knocking on your door before you run downstairs to open it.

The house offers the latest in technology, appliances and bathroom suites and is well-suited to entertaining on a grand scale with the magnificent kitchen/breakfast/family room with doors leading out to the landscaped garden.

The first floor has four bedrooms and three bathrooms as well as a useful kitchenette/utility room with appliances. On the top floor there is a superb games room which has steps leading to the fully fitted out cinema room (items available separately). There are two further bedrooms on this floor and a bathroom with steam shower.