Welcome to winter. There might still be a few leaves on the trees, but they’ll be gone soon and we’ll have all those months of TV binges and hot chocolate to look forward to.
It’s said that William Willett introduced the idea of British Summer Time because he wanted to keep playing golf into the warm summer evenings. So now the clocks go back every year and we all stop playing golf or whatever it is we like to do, and have a bit more time to think about sensible things – like keeping our homes safe.
With these long extra hours of darkness, we need to keep our eyes open. Because while we’re all snuggled up indoors with the curtains drawn, there are more opportunities for theft and other crimes against our property.
3 in 5 burglaries occur during the hours of darkness and dawn or dusk*, so it’s definitely worth taking some extra precautions.
We have a few ideas for making your home more secure, and a less tempting target when the nights draw in.
1. Are you sure you locked the door?
OK, this might seem pretty obvious. But leaving doors and windows unlocked is easy to do. We’re often in a rush – juggling children, running late, checking we’ve got our phones. There’s a lot to remember, and things get forgotten. An open door is the simplest way for someone to get into your house when you’re not there.
So it’s worth making sure that everything is shut, every time you go out and when you go to bed. It can be effective to create a little routine or ritual around leaving the house. You might feel a bit daft reciting a rhyme about locking the door, but not nearly as daft as you would if you came home and a burglar had walked straight in.
2. If you have a burglar alarm, it's there for a reason
We know that you already have a million passwords and PIN numbers fighting for space in your head, but if you memorise the code and remember to set the alarm every time you leave the house, you can stride confidently out into the world, knowing that your house is secure.
3. “Hey world, we're on holiday!”
It’s a great time of year to escape the dark and the cold and the rain. And while we’d love to go green with envy at the photos of the amazing beach you’ve managed to get away to, you can do that just as easily when you come back, all sun-kissed and bearing mysterious foreign liqueurs.
Posting every moment of your fabulous winter holiday on social media is very tempting. We’ve all done it. But remember that your privacy settings are unlikely to be as private as you think, and the internet is a goldmine of information for smart professional criminals looking for empty houses.
4. It's not just about the house
If you follow all our tips and use some common sense, you can turn your house into your own little fortress. But if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you might have a shed. Or a garage. Or an outside office. And they’re full of tools and lawnmowers and work stuff that are exactly what certain kinds of thieves are looking for.
It’s easy to think that no-one’s going to be interested in breaking into your shed and nicking your spade, but insurance companies see plenty of claims for exactly that. Decent doors and locks should be the minimum, and the better your security, the less likely you are to discover an empty shed in the springtime.
5. The lights are off and nobody's home
Nothing says ‘burgle me!’ like an unlit house. And you might not be out very late, but when the evenings are dark, everyone else’s lights will be on from teatime. Timed light switches are a modest and worthwhile investment. They’re easy to set up and can be left to do their thing. So no need for you to rush back from the fireworks.
6. We can see you
One thing thieves aren’t generally looking for is more exposure. They like to hide in the shadows, which is why this time of year is their favourite.
So let’s banish those shadows, and give them a moment in the spotlight. A security light will stop them in their tracks, and investing in CCTV is an excellent premium deterrent. Any would-be burglars will find themselves front and centre, very visible and on display for everyone to see. Which is exactly where they don’t want to be.
7. Don't put your stuff on special offer
When the evenings are darker, your lights are on much more and everyone’s home becomes one giant window display. It’s worth drawing the curtains and closing your blinds. Keep your valuables out of sight and locked away.
8. We're safer together
Crime doesn’t just happen to individuals. It affects whole communities.
When we all work together, we can create more secure neighbourhoods. If you’re going to be away for a while – even overnight – tell someone. A nearby friend or a family member can watch your house, and you can do the same for them. And some nice chocolates or a bottle of wine to say thank you is all the investment you need to make.
And just to be sure…
There are no measures we can take that are absolutely guaranteed - a determined thief can always get lucky.
So even the most careful and sensible people can find themselves the victims of a nasty and upsetting crime - and that’s why it’s always a good idea to have the reassurance of home insurance. Our Countrywide Homeowner Insurance provides cover of up to £75,000 for theft under the contents section of our policy**.