Many of us worry about break-ins and burglaries. Not only is there the risk of financial loss and disruption, having someone invade your property can be very emotionally traumatic.

As such, keeping your home secure is essential for your own safety and peace of mind. Good security can also be a priority for potential buyers.

One of the key things to remember is that most burglaries are carried out by opportunistic thieves. Around 20% of all burglaries do not even involve the use of force; thieves enter freely through open doors or windows.

In considering home security, try to look at your property through a burglar’s eyes. Could they break in without being seen? Do the doors and windows look secure? Can they see things worth stealing? Could they get in and out quickly and quietly? There are several important areas to think about:

Doors

It may sound like an obvious one, but make sure you lock all your doors properly when leaving the house and at night time. Even when doors are locked, entry is sometimes forced by kicking in the door or prising it open.

External wooden doors should be at least 44mm thick. Make sure you have good solid locks on all external doors (five lever mortise deadlocks kite-marked to at least BS3621 are recommended).

Check your door frames are sturdy, well fitted and that the hinges are attached securely. Glass panelling in doors is particularly vulnerable and should be fitted with laminated glass if possible.

Most modern patio doors come with a multi locking system. If your patio doors are not secure, get specialist advice to make sure suitable locks are fitted at the top and bottom.

If your letterbox is close to your lock, fitting a letterbox cage will prevent thieves being able to reach inside. You may want to fit a door chain so you can speak to strangers with the door partially locked, but bear in mind these can be flimsy and should not be left on all the time in case they prevent you exiting the house quickly in an emergency. A door viewer or ‘spy hole’ will allow you to identify callers before opening the door (see the Bogus Callers section below).

Windows

Around a third of burglars get in through a window, so it’s definitely worth checking they are secure. Don’t be fooled into thinking that small windows don’t matter; skilled burglars can get through any opening larger than a human head.

Visible window locks can act as a deterrent, as most thieves won’t want to break glass and run the risk of drawing attention to themselves.

Pay particular attention to downstairs windows, windows which can’t be seen from the street and any easy to reach upstairs windows. When replacing windows, consider using laminated glass for extra security. Double glazing is a must.

Lighting

Nearly 60% of burglaries take place under the cover of darkness. Good lighting is a deterrent, making it potentially more difficult for thieves to get in and out of your property unnoticed. Outside lights with movement sensors can give you warning that there is someone close to your home. If you already have normal outdoor lights, you can buy separate sensors to convert them.

Outdoor lighting can use up lots of energy and be a nuisance to neighbours and traffic. It’s worth considering low-wattage lighting, energy efficient bulbs, and solar powered lights. Make sure lighting is not turned on unnecessarily in broad daylight, shining directly into other people’s windows at night or angled in such a way as to distract passing drivers.

Alarm systems

A visible burglar alarm is another good way to make an intruder think twice. There are a huge range of systems on the market, from inexpensive ones which you fit yourself to more sophisticated products costing hundreds of pounds.

If you are planning to install a burglar alarm yourself, you can get advice from your local crime prevention officer. Get a range of quotes and do your homework to make sure your chosen alarm suits your needs. Your insurance company may be able to recommend certain systems or suppliers.

Police recommend that any alarm system you fit yourself should meet standard BS6707, or BS4737 for professionally installed systems. Badly installed or malfunctioning alarms can cause more trouble than they are worth, so consider getting professional advice.

Of course, another audible deterrent is man’s best friend. Territorial dogs are very good at sensing intruders and kicking up a fuss about it! While you should be careful about letting an aggressive dog loose on people in or near your property, some dog-owners choose to put up warning signs so that visitors and potential intruders know what they are up against.

Keys

Being careless with keys makes things easier for a burglar. If you have just moved into a new home, consider changing the external locks so that you know you are the only key holder.

Don’t leave keys in typical hiding places such as under the doormat or in a flowerpot. Leaving keys near a window or door is also a no-no. Thieves can get hold of them using wires, hooks and magnets.

There are an increasing number of incidents in which car keys, and subsequently cars, are stolen from private property. Therefore, the same rules go for car keys too. A car is best stored in a locked garage, rather than on the driveway.