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Planning Retirement Online

Safe as houses in later life 

Flora Harris offers some advice on making your home burglar-proof


If ever a saying was wrong, this is it. Being 'safe as houses' means in reality that you have a one in fifty chance of being burgled in the next 12 months. The goods you are most likely to lose are videos, TVs, cameras and computers. Police say that the age of the average intruder is 15-18. He (statistically it will probably be 'he') will commit the crime between the hours of 3 and 4 pm, when mothers collect children from school and a lot of the rest of the population is out too. The chances are that he will get in through an unlocked window and leave the same way, having spent no more than 10 minutes in your property.

Most of us remember not to leave our windows unlocked when we go out. We usually remember to cancel papers and milk when we are away. Here are some other reminders to keep homes secure:

*Don't leave garden sheds unpadlocked. Thieves may help themselves to lawnmowers and other tools, and use some of them for breaking in

*Don't leave ladders hanging about - again never in unlocked sheds or garages. They come in very handy for would-be burglars

*Don't leave the keys from locked windows lying in view on the windowsill

*Don't have an overgrown front garden that could hide someone trying to force a window

*Do tell a neighbour to watch for parcels left on the doorstep or post stuck into the letterbox when you go on holiday

*Never leave the front door key under the doormat or in a flowerpot

*Get advice from the police on marking valuable goods

*Think about cementing garden ornaments to the ground

Doors and windows

Any door that opens on to the outside of the home must be strong, with a solid core no less than 44mm thick. Intruders can kick in lightweight doors and break frames in a trice. Heavy-duty doors can have hinge bolts. Frames can be fitted with a steel strip.

Patio doors need special systems that include a device to prevent the door from being lifted off its rails. French windows need security mortice locks and mortice bolts top and bottom.

Strong doors are necessary even in a block of flats where public access is operated by a telephone entry system. Some public front doors of blocks of flats close very slowly, so intruders can slip in. Defects should be pointed out to the freeholder or estate manager.

Outer doors to houses or flats need five-lever mortice deadlocks which can only be opened with a key and will not open from the inside when locked. This means that a thief cannot get in by smashing a glass panel and putting a hand in to open the lock. A chain on the door means you don't have to open fully to strangers. PVC doors should be bought with chain already fitted. Key-operated locks on windows are an important deterrent. There are many kinds available to suit different window frames. Remember even a small half-window - anything wider than a human head - can be a security risk, so it needs to be shut and locked when you are out. Louvre windows are easy game because they can be lifted out. If you don't want to part with them, have iron bars or a metal grille fitted over them outside the house. Consider laminated glass if you are getting new windows - they are much harder to break.

Out for the evening?

Use a time switch, available from stores and DIY shops, to turn on lights and radios. Install in a living room or bedroom rather than the hall. And draw the curtains so items like the TV or video cannot be seen from the window

Alarms and sensors

Get specialist advice if you are thinking of installing an alarm system. DIY systems are cheapest but they may be of variable quality, work on low-power batteries so they have a weak alarm sound or are not long-lasting. A specialist will advise on either a 'perimeter' system wired round windows and doors or infra-red system operated by sensors. The latter is more easily set off by a pet wandering into the sensored areas. Burglar alarms undoubtedly put off intruders, and some people gamble on putting up a fake alarm box to scare people off.

For dark areas outside, fit an automatic light that switches on when a person crosses the sensored area.

Unwanted visitors

Someone knocks at your door. He or she seems agitated, says there is an emergency - it could be a flood or a need to make a telephone call or to find a certain person who doesn't, as you point out, live at this address. The person pushes in, rushes to the kitchen, and then as you follow feeling confused, he or she rushes to another room, perhaps looks in a drawer or cupboard, then leaves in a hurry. Only later do you discover that a purse or wallet has gone too.

The police call this 'burglary artifice', and the obvious way to stop it is to have a peephole viewer in your front door, and a chain on the door that you use whenever a stranger calls. This gives you time to think, to examine an identity card if offered and even to telephone the organisation that the caller claims to represent.

Never allow yourself to be rushed by a stranger at the door. If you live in a flat and have a telephone entry system, question every caller on it before letting them in, even if you are expecting a visitor. Don't hold the common entrance door open for a stranger to come in when you are entering or going out.

For further help

Crime prevention advice on locks, burglar alarms, etc, may be available free from your local crime prevention officer. Ask at the local police station.

They may be able to provide a list of local approved locksmiths. The Housing Department of the local council may help pay for alarms, extra locks, etc. This service may only be offered to tenants who are pensioners or disabled.



laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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