Kirsty McLuckie: take steps to deter unwelcome visitors

Autumn is a time of year when home security becomes a lot more important. According to figures from the insurance industry, burglary claims peak in November – with Bonfire Night reputedly being one of the most likely days of the year for households to suffer a break-in.

Both housebreaking and car thefts traditionally spike over this weekend, as many families go out to enjoy early-evening firework displays.

Depressingly, there is a similar hike in the numbers of burglaries on the evening of Valentine’s Day in February, which points to thieves keeping to the same schedule of nights out as the rest of us.

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But there are a great many precautions you can take to keep your home safe when dark nights start earlier and last longer.

Image: Christos Georghiou/Adobe StockImage: Christos Georghiou/Adobe Stock
Image: Christos Georghiou/Adobe Stock

Top of the list is the reminder not to keep alluring items on display. In the gloom outside, it is much easier to spot TVs, games consoles and other tempting items lit up like they were on the Generation Game’s conveyor belt, in front-facing rooms – so blinds or full-coverage curtains are a must.

I am constantly surprised about the number of people – particularly in Edinburgh’s New Town – who have street-level windows and no curtains.

At best, this allows nosey people like me to gawp in as they pass, and judge you on everything from your decor to what you are having for dinner. At worst, you are providing a visual shopping list for any light-fingered opportunist.

Automatic lights outside can act as a deterrent. Naturally, burglars prefer to work in the dark, so shine on.

A five-lever mortice deadlock is recommended for all doors, and for added peace-of-mind, consider adding hinge bolts.

In the case of an insurance claim, you may be out of pocket if you don’t have secure enough doors.

And remember to check window locks when you leave the house, as well as the doors. Most burglaries happen through a forced back window, rather than a door, so installing window locks and lockable latches can put theives off.

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Security cameras and infrared CCTV can be expensive, but paying extra for upgraded security might be worth it in the long term. Even the use of a fake camera that does not actually record movement can act as a deterrent for burglars.

Advice from home repair company Rightio warns that, while making an effort to make a home look occupied when you are out is important, it only works for short periods of time.

Leaving the same light on for days on end might do the opposite of what you intend, and alert burglars to the fact that you are away from the premises.

A better piece of advice is to make friends with your neighbours who will be able to identify unexpected activity around your house – although such vigilante work from them next door can have unexpected consequences.

I once passed a neighbour’s house, knowing they were away on holiday. In the darkness I spotted a pair of legs disappearing through a downstairs window.

I called the police, but it turned out to be the neighbour’s daughter, who was meant to be staying with friends while her parents were away. She instead decided that “an empty” was too much temptation to resist, and just as the local constabulary arrived, she was found letting her friends in through the back door.

She didn’t thank me for my intervention, but her parents certainly did.

Listen to the latest Property Podcast, in partnership with DJ Alexander, here.

​- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman