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Community safety advice

Community safety advice looks at two aspects of safety:

Home security advice

Burglary remains relatively low. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to improve your home security. Most burglaries are carried out by opportunistic thieves rather than ‘professional’ criminals who are looking for the easiest way of getting into a house without being seen or disturbed. If you can close off these opportunities you're much less likely to be burgled.

  • don't leave side gates open or unlocked
  • make sure you shut any accessible windows if rooms are unattended or overnight
  • don't leave ladders out allowing access to otherwise inaccessible windows
  • store securely any garden tools which could be used to force entry
  • keep hedges trimmed and low so they don't provide cover for burglars to break in
  • keep spare keys properly concealed and secured

Windows

A third of burglars get in through a window. If you're replacing windows take the opportunity to install new ones that are certified to British Standard BS 7950 ‘Windows of Enhanced Security' and consider using laminated glass, particularly in ground floor and otherwise accessible windows, as this is much harder to break.

Also consider investing in window locks that can be seen from outside. Home security and DIY shops sell inexpensive, key-operated locks to fit most kinds of windows. Window locks should be fitted to all downstairs windows and windows that are easy to reach; for example, those above a flat roof or near a drainpipe.

Even small windows such as skylights or bathroom fanlights need locks. A thief can get through any gap that is larger than a human head.

Remember to keep windows locked. Remove the keys and keep them out of sight in a safe place.

Doors

If your front and back doors are not secure, neither is your home. Two thirds of burglars gain entry through a door. If you're replacing a door, take the opportunity to improve your security by installing a door that is certified to British Standard PAS 24-1 ‘Doors of Enhanced Security'. Ask for it to be fitted with a chain or bar and, if it doesn't have a window, a door viewer. Wooden doors should be solid and at least 44mm (1.75 inches) thick.

Glass panels on or around doors are especially vulnerable, so replace them with laminated glass, or you can buy special film to stick to the inside that will do the same thing. Fit five-lever mortise deadlocks (Kitemarked BS3621) to all outside doors, including french doors. You can only open a deadlock with a key, so a thief can't break a glass panel and open the door from the inside. They also ensure that if a burglar gets into your home through a window, they can't carry out your possessions through the door.

If you've recently moved into a house it may be wise to change door locks, as other people may have keys that could give them access to your property.

Keep your doors locked even when you are at home. Ensure that all locks are fully locked or double locked at night.

Burglar alarms

Many burglars will think twice about breaking into a property with an alarm. There are many different types of alarms, ranging from cheap alarms which you can fit yourself, to more sophisticated systems costing hundreds of pounds, which should be installed by professionals.

Low-cost alarms are less reliable and can, through false alarms, be a nuisance to both you and your neighbours. Consider whether you need an audible-only alarm (which sets off a siren or an alarm) or a monitored alarm (connected to a central monitoring station).

To help you select the right type of alarm for your property it's recommended that you:

  • obtain at least three quotes and specialist advice from alarm companies
  • ask your insurance company about the alarm companies they recommend
  • ensure the system meets British Standard BS4737 or BS6799 (wire free) or the new European Standard EN50131-1

The following organisations publish lists of authorised alarm fitting companies:

  • National Approval Council for Security Systems: 01628 637 512
  • Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board: 0191 296 3242

Get professional help to install the alarm and to explain how to operate it correctly to ensure it works properly.

Lighting

Good lighting can put off or draw attention to a thief. The most appropriate form of lighting to use is high-efficiency low-energy lighting controlled by a dusk-to-dawn switch, so that it comes on only when it's dark. This provides a constant and uniform level of light, costs very little to run and helps create a more reassuring environment.

Lights that come on if they sense movement can by annoying to neighbours or a danger to passing traffic. If you do have this type of light, make sure it's directed downwards. Fit lights out of easy reach so they can't be tampered with - a height of at least 2.5 metres (eight feet) is recommended.

For further information about approved products that can help make your home more secure, visit the Secured by Design website.

Personal safety

Get home safely

Have you ever found yourself stranded at the end of a night out? Or worse still, found yourself in a situation where you have felt threatened? People often make poor decisions about how they'll get home after consuming large amounts of alcohol. This can include driving whilst drunk, getting into a car when the driver is drunk, getting into cars which people assume are taxis, accepting lifts from people they have just met or going home alone along poorly lit and deserted streets. Before setting out for the evening think about how you're getting home and make sure you've made adequate arrangements.

The Safer Stronger Communities Partnership wants to remind people of the danger of being near open water after consuming a large amount of alcohol. Over the last six years in Shrewsbury, there have been a small number of deaths caused by accidental drowning in the River Severn. The majority have involved individuals making their way home from either a pub or club having consumed a large amount of alcohol. In the majority of cases the individual had been on their own and had fallen into the river and been unable, due the consumption of alcohol, to get out of the water.

Security marking

Security marking valuable items will discourage burglars from stealing them by making it difficult to sell them on. It will also help the police to ensure they're returned to you if they're stolen but subsequently found. You should mark your property with your postcode and the number and / or name of your house.

You can security mark property in a number of ways:

  • permanent marking – using an engraving tool and a stencil
  • invisible marking - using an ultra violet (UV) pen to write on your details. The ink when dried is almost invisible to the human eye but shows up under special light. UV pen markings tend to fade over time, so it's best to reapply every six months
  • forensic marking - using DNA technology to mark property with a special code which is unique to the owner, allowing property to be easily identified
  • photographs – some items such as jewellery and antiques are not suitable for marking. In these cases, it's a good idea to take photos of such items and keep them in a safe with a record of any serial numbers or markings and a description. If your property is stolen this information will help the police recover your items and prove your ownership
  • to deter burglars you can obtain window stickers from the police or your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme stating that your property is security marked

Immobilise It!

Property mark your valuables and then make the details viewable to the police by registering them on Immobilise. You can register property such as mobile phones, MP3 players, bicycles, cameras and laptops. It's free of charge and will improve your chances of getting it back if it's lost or stolen. This online checking service is used by all UK police forces to trace owners of lost and stolen property. In addition, Immobilise is checked daily by a huge range of recovery agencies and lost property offices.

As a direct result of Immobilise, there are over 250 cases a week where property is returned or information collected that assists the police in investigating criminal activity involving stolen goods. Should you have any items stolen, you'll find it easier to deal with insurance companies as well.

Doorstep crime

Keep an eye out for your neighbours to help cut doorstep crime. Doorstep crime can take a number of forms, but is carried out by criminals who deliberately target the most vulnerable members of our communities. Distraction burglaries involve criminals posing as genuine callers – frequently they'll claim to be an official from a utility company, such as water, electricity or gas – to gain entry into a person's home. Once inside, one of the callers distracts the homeowner, while another searches for money and valuable items to steal.

A variation of distraction burglary involves criminals posing as reputable tradespeople who offer to undertake repair work on a person's property. They do the work badly, if at all, and put people under extreme pressure to pay.