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A SHORT GUIDE FOR POLICE OFICERS AND PCSOs ADVISING VICTIMS OF BURGLARY
Although you may not have any formal training in crime prevention you should do your best to provide a basic level of home security advice if called upon to do so by the victim. You will feel more able to offer advice if you study the pages of The Crime Prevention Website (TCPW), especially those pages linked to or highlighted in this guide.
You will no doubt have a great deal of sympathy for the victim (you may have personal experience of the same crime), but this should not stop you from giving them the facts about their risk of a further burglary. The theory of ‘Repeat Victimisation’ tells us that the chances of another burglary at the same address are now higher than they were for the first. These are some of the reasons why:
- The same suspects return to steal items of property they were unable to take during the first burglary and because they know the place, possibly bringing a vehicle on the second occasion
- The same suspects return, knowing that certain items have been replaced by the householder, perhaps after claiming on their home contents insurance
- Different suspects take advantage of the same security weaknesses. They may have spotted these security weaknesses for themselves or may have been told about them by the first suspects
Burglary is an extremely upsetting experience for people and, in an emotional sense, this bad news about the possibility of a repeat will not be welcomed. However, such information imparted in a sensitive and understanding way can galvanize the victim into action at a time when the victim's home security has become a priority.
Bear in mind that the same theory tells us that the chances of burglary at a neighbour’s house (approximately 30 both sides and 60 opposite) has also increased. This can sometimes result from design issues, such as all the houses along the same street having the same side access arrangements or having the same style lock in the door. This is something you should bear in mind when making house-to-house enquiries.
If the victims have home contents insurance tell them to take a close look at the conditions (small print) of their policy and advise them to fulfil those conditions. This is because an insurer will only pay a claim if, at the time of the burglary, the home was secured according to those conditions.
LOW AND NO COST THINGS THEY CAN DO
Many victims of burglary cannot afford to make improvements to their home security, but there are useful low and no cost things that everyone can do to reduce their chances of burglary . Some places in the UK have local authorities and charities who can help vulnerable people with their home security, such as free or reduced cost alarms and door and window locks. Find out if they operate in your area.
- It is vitally important to make a home look occupied when it isn’t! Lighting can help. Suggest they:
- Operate several lamps on timer switches. You can get plug-in timers and timers that replace wall switches. There are also timers that sit on top of a wall switch that do not require wiring. Operate lamps in rooms they would normally occupy and ensure the on-off timing for the lights reflects their normal domestic routine
- Use a Fake TV light, which is a small lamp that projects flickering and coloured light onto a window, which gives the impression of someone in the room watching TV
- Vertical blinds, thick nets and drawn curtains can help mask the fact that the dwelling is unoccupied
- If they are going away for the night or on holiday suggest that they follow the guidance in the Holiday Security Checklist on TCPW (they can print the checklist).
- Working together with trusted neighbours can help keep their homes secure so suggest they become active in their local neighbourhood watch, if one exists, or maybe even start one
- Advise them to always fully lock their doors and windows – every time they go out
- They should security mark their valuable property, preferably using proprietary products, but even using the post code and house or flat number would be useful
- Ask them to keep a tidy garden and to always lock away any tools that could be used by the burglar to force open a door or window. Any shed, garage or other outbuilding must be properly secured. Valuable items in the garden, such as barbecues and furniture should be locked away when not in use and security marked
- Never leave spare car keys in an unoccupied dwelling as they may be used to steal the vehicle. Although not a low cost item suggest they get an insurance rated safe, which can be used to store spare keys, cash and expensive jewellery
DOORS AND WINDOWS
You cannot be expected to know everything about door and window security and although you can give the basic advice listed below further advice should be sought from an expert, such as a Master Locksmith
- They should ensure that their doors and windows are locked in accordance with the conditions of their contents insurance policy. Whether or not they are insured you can advise them to visit www.thecrimepreventionwebsite.com to find out which locks are best for the many different types of doors and windows you will encounter. Do not attempt to offer advice if you suspect that a door or window might be subject to Building Regulations (Fire doors and emergency escape doors and windows). These will normally be found in apartment blocks and basement dwellings. In these cases advise them to seek expert advice from a Master Locksmith. Qualified locksmiths will know what work they can carry out on a fire or escape door without affecting its integrity.
- If they are considering the replacement of a door or window (which may have been damaged beyond repair during the burglary) advise them to purchase those that have been certificated to the British Enhanced Security Standard of PAS24: 2016. These doors and windows are available in a wide variety of materials and designs and are tested to ensure they are resistant to most forms of attack for up to 3 minutes in the lab. Out in the field resistance is likely to be much longer.
- If the dwelling has doors with multi-point locks ensure that they are using them correctly, i.e. Close the door, lift the handle, turn the key and then remove the key to a place where it cannot be fished for through the letter plate. Letter plates should be protected by fitting deflectors on the inside or a lockable letter plate
- Suggest the fitting of a door chain or limiter and a door viewer
- Advise them to always keep the keys in a place where all the occupants can find them in case they are needed in an emergency
- Make sure they have smoke alarms and suggest they regularly test them
- You may have heard of the British Standard for door locks – BS 3621 This is a minimum standard for thief resistant locks. These locks are commonly fitted into and onto timber doors and are often referenced in insurance conditions. You should make yourself aware of the different types and the variants of this standard
- If it is suspected that the thief ‘picked’ the door’s cylinder lock to gain entry (bumped) or snapped the cylinder or peeled back the handle fitting to access and break the cylinder you should advise them to consult a Master Locksmith and replace the cylinder with one that carries the British Standard Kitemarked. Familiarise yourself with cylinder snapping and bumping
THE GARDEN AND ACCESS
- If the burglary was committed via a rear communal alleyway suggest they get together with neighbours and contact the local authority about the possibility of erecting security gates at the entrances to the alleyway - 'Alleygating'.
- Fences can be improved by topping them with timber trellis, especially if the trellis is used to carry a thorny plant. Rear and side fences can normally be up to 2 metres high before planning permission would be required. Refrain from advising man-made injurious toppings
- Side gates must be locked with a padlock or mortice deadlock plus additional bolts. 2 metres is the ideal height, which could be obtained by topping the gate(s) with trellis
- Padlocks used to lock gates, sheds etc should be certificated to the European Standard EN 12320
- If they do not have a light outside the main entrance suggest they have one installed. Further suggest that it operates using a dusk-to-dawn sensor so that in the winter the front of the dwelling is lit for when they return home from work
- External light in the back garden and outside the rear and side doors would be useful, but lighting up places that cannot be observed by passersby and neighbours could advantage the intruder
- High hedges at the front of the property should be reduced in height to provide a clear view from the street. In some cases this might also apply to hedges in the rear garden. Too much privacy can sometimes provide the ideal opportunity for burglary and if the occupier wishes to maintain this retreat then other additional security measures should be considered
- Advise the occupiers never to hide keys in the garden or under a flower pot etc. If found by a thief this could nullify their insurance cover
- Research confirms that intruder alarms reduce the risk of burglary. If they are thinking about getting one advise them to purchase one from an installer who is a member of either the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB) and that the system meets the security standard BS EN 50131. Most alarms fitted to homes these days are wireless. Explain that alarms with police response will be more expensive, because they will have to pay an ongoing monitoring fee and the system will have to be serviced twice a year. It is unlikely that a burglar will know if the alarm is monitored.
- Encourage them to adopt a simple locking up routine at night by following KOPCAR on TCPW
- Finally, suggest they complete the Home Security Survey on The Crime Prevention Website. It takes about 15 minutes to complete and after they submit their answers they will be sent a free, tailor-made, risk assessment report advising them about the things they can do to improve their security. This is a confidential service and they are not asked for personal details, such as their name or address.
- Completing the survey yourself will be a useful training exercise
Updated May 2015, August 2017
This short guide has been produced by retired Metropolitan Police Crime Prevention Practitioner, Calvin Beckford, who is the owner and operator of The Crime Prevention Website.com - a free advice website for all members of our society. The information was prepared specifically for Lancashire Constabulary. If your police service would like to use it in a printed document or on your force website you need only ask me. I only ask that you cite The Crime Prevention Website as the source. If you need a copy of this guidance to take with you to a victim's dwellng please feel free to print this page out by using the print icon above.
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