Wednesday, 9 November 2016
The nights are getting longer, colder, and unfortunately also more unsafe. Claims data from specialist insurance broker Towergate has revealed that the number of burglaries spiked by 20% last November, just after the clocks turned back. This spike goes back several years, with thefts increasing by 13% on average between October and November. This means that it is more important this month than any other to consider the security of your home.
This is further highlighted by Home Office police records, which similarly report a rise in burglaries for the last three months of 2015, clearly showing that thieves manage to make good (or rather bad) use of the darker and longer nights to do their work. And with people often careless about showing when their house is unoccupied, thieves have plenty to take advantage of.
How safe do you feel?
If you’re worried about being burgled, you’re not alone. A study conducted by Churchill Home Insurance has revealed that 6.9 million Brits share your concerns. Figures show that there were 701,000 incidents of domestic burglary between April 2015 and March 2016 (according to the most recent Crime Statistics for England and Wales), a decrease of 11% from the previous year, meaning 29 households per 1,000 are affected by burglary incidents.
Young homeowners are especially at risk. Data from OceanFinance has revealed that 18% of survey correspondents aged 25-34 were burgled in the last five years, compared to the 6% UK average. Furthermore, owner-occupiers were more likely to have been victims of domestic burglary over the last five years, at 8% compared with 3% of tenants. This is despite the fact that homeowners tend to feel safer in their home than tenants, with 69% of owners saying that they always feel safe at home, compared with 57% of renters.
This discrepancy does not apply to the age divide, with young people not only more likely to be burgled, but also more likely to feel unsafe in their homes. Overall, 64% of UK adults say that they always feel safe in their own homes, while those aged 18-24 this drops to 55% and for those aged 25-34 the figure is 53%. The figure for those aged 55 and over is 73%, which is justified given that only 2% belonging to this group reported being burgled in the last five years, making young people nine times more likely to have their homes broken into than over 55s.
In better news, research conducted by the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology at the University of Portsmouth has revealed that the vast majority of burglars will avoid occupants and leave when they hear them in the house or notice them coming back. Even young homeowners are therefore highly unlikely to come to any personal harm from a burglar.
What can you do?
Now that you have a better idea of the risk you face, let’s talk about what you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible. Towergate has compiled some tips to help you through the winter months:
Top of the list is always making sure your doors and windows are locked, and checking to see if those locks adhere to British Standard guidelines. This is important regardless of if you’re away on holiday, just stepping out for five minutes, or actually in the house at the time. When you are away, never leave a spare key out, no matter how safe you think your hiding place is, and remember to keep a light on a timer to make it harder for thieves to guess if you’re there or not.
If you are away, or about to go, don’t post your excitement on social media: you never know who will be able to access your profile, and they might know exactly where you live. Similarly, don’t brag about having expensive items in your home on any of the social media platforms, and certainly don’t take pictures of them in the room you keep them in. This is like putting your most expensive item or car keys on display in your ground floor front-facing window with a sign next to it that says ‘Steal Me’. No matter how nice it is to receive praise and feedback on what you buy or where you go, you should remember that social media is inherently unsafe. You will have plenty of time to post holiday pictures after you’re back, and more time to enjoy them as well.
Think like a thief
A good way to think about keeping your house and your belongings safe is to imagine what would attract a thief. The survey by Churchill Home Insurance showed that 34% of people have thought about where thieves could enter their property, while only 29% had thought about where it would be best to keep their valuables. A further 21% had thought about the route a burglar might take, while one in 10 (10%) thought there was no point in thinking about it and that burglars would get in anyway.
Do you keep your valuables in your bedside table, or maybe your underwear drawer? Unfortunately, these places are high on most burglars’ list to search. A more unpredictable place might be the kitchen, or even your bathroom. Thinking about unusual safe places to keep your valuables while you’re on holiday might not be top of your list of preparations, but it could be useful to try.
In the end, if the worst comes to worst, the only thing you can do is protect yourself. Aside from good locks and maybe a security system, this means ensuring you have home and contents insurance with sufficient cover. Home insurance will pay for any repairs to windows, doors and other things that may get broken in a burglary, with some home insurance companies offering a speedy service that replaces locks etc. within 24 hours of the unfortunate event, helping you feel safe(r) in your home again. Meanwhile, contents insurance will help you pay for replacement items. These may not be able to truly replace your old valuables, but at least you won’t have to pay for them yourself. And since the cost of a burglary can be quite hefty, you’ll be glad to have the financial safety net.