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How to keep your home secure this winter

As the nights draw in and the clocks go back, instances of burglary generally rise. But how can you help to make sure your home isn't targeted?
How to keep your home secure this winter

The clocks went back over the weekend and this act generally tends to signal - in theory, if not exactly seasonally - the beginning of winter, with the nights quickly drawing in and the temperatures starting to drop significantly. 

While this period of frost, snow and winter coats is some people's idea of heaven, statistics show this is the time of year when burglars tend to strike more often and our homes may be at risk. The longer nights provide more cover for thieves and so they are traditionally more active over the winter months.

According to insurance company Aviva, there are 20 per cent more residential property thefts when the clocks go back than during British Summer Time and Halifax estimates that the average cost of a burglary at this time of year is £1,746. So what can you do to make sure your home is as safe as possible this winter?

Focus on the front door
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, reformed burglar turned security consultant Michael Fraser highlighted the fact this is the first thing a criminal will assess. 

"If your front door looks tatty - or if it only has one cylinder lock instead of a cylinder lock plus deadlock - it will catch a thief's eye," he explained.

Use your lights effectively
Keeping certain rooms in your house illuminated will give the impression it is occupied, while outdoor, motion-activated floodlights will help to ward off potential burglars. 

To make it look like someone is home when you are out and about, use a timer or leave lights on in main rooms, rather than hallways. Even if you are only nipping to the shops or doing the school run, if it is dark out be sure to leave a light on.

Another effective way to make it seem like someone is home is to leave a radio switched on and tuned into a talk station - this will give the impression of conversation if a thief is trying to listen in. 

Get a top-quality alarm system
Dummy boxes are often utilised as part of an effective alarm system, acting as a deterrent at the back of the property while a fully-functioning alarm is located at the front. However, owners should not be fooled into thinking a dummy box alone is enough of a deterrent to prevent a burglary - experienced criminals will assess the situation and identify houses that do not have a quality system installed.

If you have pets at home, it is a good idea not to advertise that fact. We've all seen the 'Beware of the dog' signs, but Mr Fraser explained that rather than acting as a deterrent, these often make properties more attractive to would-be burglars.

"You know that people who have pets often don't turn on their burglar alarms because they don't want their cat or dog to set it off. If you see [these signs], you don't walk past. Instead, you think 'this could be the one for me'," he stated.

Be smart with your stuff
Burglars only need to access your home for a split second to make off with handbags, wallets or car keys if they are left in prominent positions such as the bottom of the stairs or on a hallway table. Consider keeping them in less obvious locations and take your keys to bed in order to prevent thieves breaking in and making off with your vehicle.

Similarly, criminals will consider your windows to be shopfronts and will make a note of your property if they see high-value items on display, such as laptops, tablets or expensive televisions. Use curtains and blinds to make it difficult to see directly into your home, but make sure your window locks are visible from the outside.

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