The Crime Prevention Website

Last week I was called to a house in Camden to conduct a security assessment. My client is the house owner and his building contractors who are currently carrying out a major refurbishment.  The call was made to me a couple days after a burglary had taken place.

When I got there the builder showed me the point of entry for the first burglary, which was the front door.  (There had actually been two incidents – repeat victimisation springs to mind!) The door was a large and 2” thick and fitted with a nightlatch and a BS 3621 mortice deadlock.  The burglar seems to have used a hammer and a large chisel to chop away at the door and frame close to the deadlock.  What really surprised me was not only did the burglar get to the boxed striking plate which was almost completely destroyed, but that he did all this at the front of the house.

I think there were several opportunities at play to enable this bold act to take place. 

  •          A high hedge was running along most of the front garden of the burgled house
  •          The neighbour’s hedge to the right was even thicker and taller and it was also growing along the side of their front garden, thus contributing to the shielding of the burgled house on two sides 
  •          The builders had also erected a temporary fence (H and S) to the left of the path leading to the front door of the burgled house, which had the effect of reducing surveillance of the front of the property still further to just the width of the path leading to the front door – about 750mm.
  •          The burglary probably occurred after dark
  •          The street lights were low-pressure sodium
  •          Activity at the front door may have been confused with builder’s activity which had been going on over several weeks
  •          The lights at the front door were not working
  •          There was no alarm
  •          The house was unoccupied with no internal lights showing

The second incident, which occurred the day before my visit, took place at the side of the house after dark.  The previous householder had erected an ornate metal gate towards the front of the side access to thwart attempts to access the steps down to the basement level of the house and a basement entrance.  On this occasion the burglar simply chopped away at the deadlock’s striking box, which eventually just fell out of the brickwork.  Once again the cover provided by the high hedges meant that this could go on completely unseen from the street.  The incident did not develop into a burglary, but access was gained down the side of the house and builder’s hand and electrical tools were stolen.

I am fairly certain that if the hedges had not been in place both incidents would probably not have occurred.  As it is my client has removed the front hedge and will be having a friendly chat with the neighbour to see if they can come to some arrangement with his high hedge and a joint approach to the shared side access between both buildings – a stronger, higher and more secure pair of gates to replace the existing I hope.

Going back to visiting burgled homes in a private capacity and coming up with security solutions has been really interesting and the lesson we should all take from this is that even a good old fashioned BS3621 Kitemarked mortice deadlock fitted into a very thick door will give way if the thief is provided with cover.

Have tall feature shrubs and trees in your front garden by all means, but don’t allow them to create a shield of obscurity to the advantage of the thief.  You know it makes sense!

Defensive Plants and High Hedges   

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