The to-do list when preparing to go on holiday is invariably long and time consuming, which is why home security is often an after-thought for many of us.
Yet summer is a peak time for burglaries as empty properties are an easier target for would-be thieves.
A recent report by home insurer Policy Expert found that 816,000 UK households were burgled while owners were on holiday. A third of thieves entered through a downstairs window, while a quarter broke or tampered with door locks.
Here are some tips to help keep your home protected while you are away.
Neighbourhood watchers: An old-fashioned, low-tech solution that works well if you have a discreet and trustworthy neighbour. Ask if they will keep an eye on your property, collect post and close the curtains at night/open them in the morning.
Locks: Good door and window locks and strong deadlocks are a must. The Master Locksmiths Association is a good place to find advice and trusted tradespeople, www.locksmiths.co.uk
Fitting a deadlock on a door is a good idea. They are harder and more time consuming to pick, so many burglars will move onto easier pickings if they are up against a deadlock. DIY stores sell inexpensive key-operated locks for most kinds of windows. Fit them to all downstairs windows and those upstairs that are easy to reach.
Strong glazing: Glass panels on external doors are particularly vulnerable and are seen as an easy target for burglars trying to gain entry to your home, according to Police UK. Think about replacing flimsy glass with strong laminated glass. You can also buy security window film. This can be applied to existing glass panels and windows and makes them more resistant to breaking. You can find it in some DIY stores and online from specialists including The Window Film Company, www.windowfilm.co.uk
Postpone the post: Letters piling up behind the door are a clue that someone is on holiday. The Royal Mail’s keepsafe service is useful. It holds your mail for up to two months while you’re away.
Let there be light and sound: Have lamps and the radio on automatic timers and set them to turn on when it goes dark. Timeguard specialise in 24-hour plug-in time clocks, which cost £7.50 each.
Outdoor motion sensor lights are also a good deterrent as is FakeTV. The latter can be bought from Immobilise.com for £24.99. It is the size of a coffee cup and makes it appear as if someone is at home watching television. It does this by recreating the sort of light associated with scene, colour changes and on-screen motion produced by a real TV set. FakeTV has a timer and is energy efficient. Most burglars will not take the risk of breaking into what they think is an occupied house.
Register your valuables and mark them: Immobilise.com is the world’s largest free register of possession ownership details. It can be used by members of the public and businesses to register their valued possessions or company assets. This online checking service is used by UK police forces to trace owners of lost and stolen property.
Make them even less attractive to thieves by marking them with a police-approved forensic pen with ink that is only visible under UV light. You can buy UV pens from stationers and online. Mark valuables with your postcode, house or flat number or the first three letters of your address. Along with electrical items and bikes, you can also mark antiques but visit https://www.bada.org/advice/valuations-security-and-insurance/marking-antiques-and-fine-art for advice on this.
Burglar and bark alarms: If you haven’t got the time or budget to invest in a state-of-the-art system, look at wireless alarm systems with battery-powered sensors. You can fit these yourself. You can also get sensors that trigger the sound of a barking dog indoors.
Beware of social media: Don’t announce your holiday plans on social media. It’s an invitation to burglars. For the same reason, wait until you get back home to post pictures of your holiday online. Claims on some home contents insurance policies are invalidated if you have mentioned on social media that you are away. Also check your privacy settings so you’re not sharing your location.