There are basically two types of housebreaker — the professional burglar and the sneak thief. The professional burglar will have generally chosen his target with care — he will know or strongly suspect that valuables are present. His first job will be to inspect the property to see the easiest point of entry, the safest escape route, signs of you being away and so on. The professional usually likes to have ample time in which to work and does not leave a deliberate trail of destruction from room to room. Damage is done only if he has to break into things to get to the objects he is searching for. Once found, the burglar leaves as quickly as possible. Report to the police immediately anyone who seems to be paying undue attention to your house.
For most of us the professional burglar is not the problem. The majority of break-ins are carried out by sneak thieves. About three-quarters of them are children or teenagers who are looking for easy access. If they can’t find it, they move on elsewhere and the result is often senseless vandalism. Insurance cannot cover the deep sense of shock suffered by the unfortunate victim. The answer is to make the sneak thief go elsewhere — he will not have made your home the object of his day’s work. The house should look occupied at all times and entry must be made difficult at all times. To see if your house is secure, you can follow the excellent police advice — go out and lose your key! Of course you needn’t actually lose your key, but do see how you could enter the empty house without a key and by causing little or no external damage to gain entry. You will probably find it can be done quite simply.
The Neighbourhood Watch Scheme
There is nothing new or very clever in the basic concept — Neighbourhood Watch is merely a development of the age-old good neighbour policy, plus some police involvement. There is no well-defined set of rules for starting up a scheme. There are many variations, but the basic principles are generally the same. A police Crime Prevention Officer calls on each house in a street or group of streets to explain the scheme and to enlist support. There are window stickers for the participants, and each member of the scheme takes on the duties of watchfulness without legal liability.
There is no have-a-go or vigilante element. Suspicious actions are reported immediately to the police station, security problems are often discussed and when a member goes on holiday he appoints a key holder. The measure of involvement is agreed by the group.
Burglary the easy way
The most surprising aspect of home security is that many thousands of burglaries do not involve break-ins. A quarter of all home robberies involve a thief who simply enters through an open door or window. Another method of unforced entry is by the person who calls “from the water board, electricity office, the Council to assess the rates” and so on. Never say yes until you have been shown some item of official identification. Read it — if in doubt call the office before allowing entry.
Don’t put your name and address on keys, and if possible keep your keys separate from a purse, handbag etc which contains identification information. The most despicable form of non-forced entry is the false telephone call supposedly from the police to say that there has been an accident. The recipient understandably rushes out without closing doors, windows etc. Ring the number back if you have the presence of mind, or ask a neighbour to keep an eye on things.