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Neighbourhood Watch

BEAT THE BURGLAR
Most burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves. In two out of ten burglaries they don't even have to use force - they get in through an open door or window.
Look at your home through the burglar's eyes - are there places where they could break in unseen? Have you fitted strong locks on your doors and windows? Would they have to make a lot of noise by breaking glass? Reduce the risk of burglary happening to you by making sure you've taken these simple precautions. For a relatively small outlay you could make your home more secure and buy peace of mind into the bargain.

WINDOWS
A third of burglars get in through a back window. Easily visible locks may deter some thieves, because a window lock forces the thief to break the glass and risk attracting attention. DIY shops sell inexpensive key-operated locks to fit all kinds of window.
Fit key-operated window locks to all downstairs windows, those which can't be seen from the street and easily accessible upstairs window, eg. Those above a flat roof or by a drainpipe. Even small windows such as skylights or bathroom fanlights need locks - a thief can get through any gap larger than a human head. Remember to remove keys from locked windows and to keep them out of sight in a safe place.

DOORS
Always keep your entry doors locked. If your front and back doors are not secure, neither is your home. Make sure the doors and frames are strong and in good condition. Doors should be made of solid core construction - 44mm thick.
Glass panels on or around the door are especially vulnerable, so replace them with laminated glass.
Fit back and front doors with a five-lever mortice deadlock - and use it. Fit all exterior doors - top and bottom - with bolts. Remember to fit all security devices with strong screws or bolts. Get specialist advice on fitting locks to patio doors. Fit both french doors, top and bottom, with a security mortice lock and mortice bolt.
Patio doors should have special locks fitted top and bottom unless they already have a multi-locking system.
If you're thinking of buying PVCu or metal framed windows or doors, make sure that they come with good built-in locks and a fitted chain, which can be very difficult and expensive to add retrospectively. Look in your telephone directory for the names of local locksmiths who are members of the Master Locksmiths' Association, or visit http://www.locksmiths.co.uk
Most front doors are fitted with a rim latch which locks automatically when the door is closed but can be opened again from the inside without a key.

For extra protection you should consider installing the following:

AUTOMATIC DEADLOCK
This locks automatically when the door is closed, but when locked externally with a key, cannot be opened from the inside.

MORTICE DEADLOCK
Fit a five-lever deadlock about a third of the way up the door. One kitemarked to at least BS3621 should satisfy most insurance requirements.
A deadlock with a key ensures a thief can't smash a nearby panel and open the door from the inside. Plus, if the thief gets into your home through a window, they can't carry your property out through the door.

HINGES
Check that the door hinges are sturdy and secured with strong, long screws. For added security fit hinge bolts. These are inexpensive and help to reinforce the hinge side of a door against the use of force.

DOOR VIEWERS
Enable you to view any callers before deciding whether or not to open the door to them.

LETTERBOXES
Never hang a spare key inside the letterbox - an obvious place that a thief will check. Consider fitting a letterbox cage which prevents thieves from putting their hand through.

LIGHTING
Good lighting can deter a thief. Some exterior lights have an infra-red sensor that switches the light on for a few moments when it detects something in its range. Sensors can be bought separately to convert an existing outdoor light into a security one.

LOOK IN WHEN YOU'RE OUT
Most burglaries happen when a house or flat is empty, so: Use time switches - available from DIY shops - to turn on lights, radios and other appliances when you're out. Don't tempt the thief - keep all valuable items out of sight. Don't advertise your absence when you're on holiday, or even when out at work or shopping. Most burglars will only tackle an empty house. If you can, get a friend or neighbour to look after your home when you're away, by collecting your post, drawing your curtains at night and generally making the place look lived in. And be prepared to do the same for them.

IF YOU LIVE IN A FLAT
The most vulnerable part of your flat is likely to be the front door. Replace a weak door. It should be as strong as the main entry door. Fit hinge bolts which stop the door being pulled off its hinges. Fit a steel strip to the door frame to strengthen it. Consider having a door telephone entry system installed. Never 'buzz' open the door for strangers or hold the door open for someone who is arriving as you are leaving.

SPARE KEY
Never leave a spare key in a convenient hiding place such as under the doormat or in a flower pot - a thief will look there first. If you've moved into a new house, consider changing the back and front door locks - other people may have keys that fit.

SIDE PASSAGES
Fit a strong, lockable, high gate across the passage to stop a thief getting to the back of the house where they can work undisturbed. If you share an alleyway with a neighbour, ask for their permission and for help with the cost.

GARAGES & SHEDS
Often full of expensive tools ideal for breaking into the rest of the house - and often left unlocked. Never leave a garage or garden shed unlocked, especially if it has a connecting door to the house - a thief could get in and work on the inner door in privacy. Fit shed and garage doors with a strong padlock and make sure that they are solid enough not to be kicked in. Lock ladders inside the garage or shed to stop a thief using them to reach inaccessible windows. If there is no room inside, chain or padlock them horizontally to a sturdy bracket on an outside wall.

GATES & FENCES
Check for weak spots where a thief could get in - a low or sagging fence, or a back gate with weak lock. A thorny hedge along the boundary can act as a deterrent. But make sure that the front of the house is still visible to passers-by so that a burglar can't work unseen.

BURGLAR ALARMS
Visible burglar alarms make burglars think twice. There are many systems on the market, ranging from cheaper DIY alarms to more sophisticated alarms costing hundreds of pounds. Easily installable 'wire-free' alarms are now available whereby sensors fitted around the house transmit radio detection signals to a control system. These systems usually take 3-4 hours to fit. Wired alarms are cheaper but take longer - around a day - to install. Get specialist advice and a number of quotes.
Consult your insurance company for companies they recommend before deciding which best suits your needs. The system should meet BS4737 (professionally installed) or BS6707 (DIY). Remember, a badly-fitted alarm can create problems in itself. Don't install a DIY system unless you have the electrical knowledge and practical skill to do so.

SMOKE DETECTORS
With all security, consideration must be given to the risk of fire and means of escape. Fit a smoke detector - a minimum of one per floor - installed to the manufacturer's instructions to BS5446 Part 1.

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOUR
If you see anyone acting suspiciously in your neighbourhood, call the police. Join a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme - use this link to email your local Safer Community Team if you are interested in setting up a scheme. They will be able to tell you if there is an existing scheme in your area. http://www.northants.police.uk

IF YOU ARE BURGLED
A secure home will reduce the chance of you getting burgled. But, if you get home and notice signs of a break-in:
Don't go in or call out - the intruder could still be inside.
Go to a neighbour's house to call the police on 08453 700700.
If you know the intruder is still in the property dial 999.

Call the Northamptonshire Police switchboard on 08453 700700 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111