West Midlands Police PC Darren Robbins is a crime prevention guru who offers security advice on everything from multi-million pound projects to garden sheds.
“Burglars work on a risk-reward ratio,” he said, “so if the risk of being spotted or caught outweighs the potential reward they’ll steer clear. Residents can easily make home security improvements that would deter most opportunists – and that level of security doesn’t have to cost the earth.”
Here Darren gives his top tips to beat burglars and make sure residents across the West Midlands have a secure New Year.
An alarm should be rated the staple burglary deterrent. Alarm options range from standard motion-triggered systems to ones that will take a CCTV image of the intruder and instantly send the photo to a computer or mobile phone.
There are also good quality wireless alarms, so there’s no need to have it professionally installed and people can take it with them if they move house, and fob-operated versions so no need to remember security codes.
“Technology has vastly improved over the last decade,” said Darren, “and whereas advanced alarms may previously have been financially out of reach of many people they’ve now come right down in price.
“And they are much more reliable. I used to get lots of false alarm call-outs triggered by an insect or pet setting off the motion sensors but they are now twinned with heat sensors so that won’t happen – and pet owners don’t need to worry because you can set other detection parameters like height and also the amount of body heat being given off.
“Burglary rates in the West Midlands have almost halved in the last five years but, though that’s reassuring, residents should be on the front foot rather than relying on faith that “it won’t happen to me”. And most alarms are only installed after a burglary has taken place.”
Locks – just think James Bond!
Homeowners need to think James Bond when it comes to lock security…because the 007 is the best on the market to keep out criminals!
The TS007 3-star rating (to give it its full title) is an anti-snap, anti-drill and anti-pick lock designed to frustrate any thief hoping for an easy entry to your home. Review the type of lock you are looking to purchase on the internet as locks range from £20 to £45 plus fitting. Fitting charges vary greatly so shop around.
Darren said: “At the security show home I show visitors a video illustrating how a seasoned burglar can force open a basic UPVC door lock in just 13 seconds. It’s a real eye-opener and many people who’ve seen it have upgraded their cylinder locks.”
Most burglars will walk on by if they believe a home is occupied…they don’t want to bump into a resident or risk being disturbed. It increases the chance or being caught and, in the eyes of the law, escalates the seriousness of the offence.
If you can’t be there in person the next best thing is, in a Macaulay Culkin Home Alone style, create an illusion you’re at home. We’re not talking about cardboard cut-outs of family members on a pulley system, but simple timer switches that will automatically flick lights on and off across the house.
Darren said: “The worst thing you can do is leave the house in darkness because that’s a clear indicator to opportunist thieves that the house is empty. Some people might leave a landing light on…but in reality, who sits around in the house with just a landing light on?
“Timer switches cost just a few pounds and are a fantastic, cost-effective investment.
“Set them and go outside and have a look what they look like – but don’t put them in front rooms that can be seen into from the street as offenders can see into your home and will realise no-one is in. Use upstairs rooms, back rooms, hall and kitchen.”
TV magic trick!
It may not look like a TV – and you certainly won’t be able to tune in to the latest episode of Hollyoaks – but this mini-LED gadget makes it appear you’re at home sat in front of the box.
Around the size of a credit card, it’s flickering light combinations when viewed through closed curtains give potential intruders the impression your television is switched on.
Darren said: “If a burglar believes someone is in watching TV there’s no way they’re going to risk breaking in…certainly when the house a few doors down in in total darkness. You can buy them online…just type simulation or fake TV into a search engine.”
Some people, especially keen gardeners and DIY-ers, store hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of equipment in a shed – but often it’s secured with the most flimsy of locks or no lock at all.
And worse still burglars have been known to utilise equipment, such as tools or ladders, to help them break into the owner’s home.
Secure By Design approved Synthetic sheds, with multi-point locks, may cost about £100 – 250 more than a standard wooden shed but make financial sense, 80 years maintenance free and as solid as concrete.
“Also look to alarm your shed. Shed alarms can be bought for as little as £7, look for shed alarms with no more than a 10-second activation time from the time the shed is entered, the louder the better…minimum decibel range of 130db. Try and get and alarm that does not stand out in terms of colour. Most are white and can be seen by offenders, there are alternative colours such as brown which are available on the market.”
Protect your perimeter
Around three-quarters of all break-ins occur at the rear of the property and if a burglar can simply wander round through an open side gate they’re less likely to attract attention than if they have to scale a six-foot, locked metal gate.
Standard garden trellis could be your saviour; its weakness is its strength. Prowlers aren’t going to want to pull themselves up over fencing that’s topped with trellis: not only does it increase the height of the fence but if climbed the trellis will break with a crack likely to arouse attention.
Trellis toppings can be enhanced further by securing plastic pointed ‘prick strips’ on the top or threading hostile, prickly plants through the trellis.
Darren said: “Burglars want quick, easy wins…they don’t want to risk being noticed or have to spend time negotiating obstacles. Make it difficult for opportunists to access the rear of your house: get a sturdy, tall side gate and lock it.
“Security lighting can be another option but make sure the area to be illuminated can be seen by yourself or others, particularly at the rear of the property. If it’s secluded and cannot be seen you may only be providing the offender with light and not a deterrent.”
Good house keeping
Burglars love nothing more than an open door or window: it makes their lives easier and cuts the risk in terms of being seen or heard breaking in.
Around a quarter of all break-ins are as a result of opportunists taking advantage of sloppy home security so make sure windows are locked, particularly in unoccupied rooms, and don’t leave keys in window locks.
And don’t tempt offenders by leaving valuable items on display like, like phones or car keys on window ledges or by doors, as that’s all some crooks need to chance their arm.
In the unlikely event your home is burgled…make them work for your valuables! Store jewellery and personal documents in a secured safe, don’t leave valuables lying around or in jewellery boxes where they can be easily seen.
Safe Cans – mini safes in the shape of food tins, aerosol cans or even dictionaries – are a clever way of hiding car keys, house keys, small amounts of cash or personal papers. Make sure you put them in the right environment though…an intruder might question why you have a can of soup on a lounge bookshelf! There are YouTube video tutorials showing how you can make your own Safe Can from empty tins.
Secure by Design
If you are buying anything for your home such as windows, doors, sheds or locks always choose Secure by Design certificated products.
Secure by Design is an initiative run by the Association of Chief Police Officers which provides a minimum standard of security for such products that has to be achieved in order to receive the certification.
Videos offering crime prevention tips can be found on the West Midlands Police YouTube channel: For quick tips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmVo-NfixUg and for an extended home security tour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDkIQggah2c.
Darren is keen to hear from community groups that would like to tour the force’s Security Show Home in Walsall – a property equipped with lots of gadgets and equipment designed to keep burglars at bay.
He can accommodate between 15 and 30 people per visit which includes a tour of the house and a presentation. Groups can contact Darren directly on 01922 433277 (ext: 7881 6596) or email email@example.com.