Opportunistic, unforced break-ins become much more of an issue during the summer months and they can cause worrying issues with insurance claims. Here we take a tour around the home to point out where the risks lie, and how you can take steps to resolve them.

Windows – What are the Risks?

It’s fairly regular practice to leave windows open in an attempt to keep your home ventilated whilst temperatures outside soar. But open windows are a clear invitation to a potential intruder who happens to be on the lookout for such opportunities. If you’re all out in the back garden enjoying a BBQ or playing with the kids, it’s unlikely you’ll hear any attempt at a break-in through an open window at the front of your house. Similarly if you take a nap or a shower upstairs, those downstairs windows could prove an open invitation to an intruder, and chances are you won’t hear a thing.

Trying to sleep in the heat can be incredibly difficult and you’ll probably not think twice about leaving the bedroom window open all night to let in some air. In fact, you may decide to leave all the upstairs windows open. But an open window in an unoccupied room, or above a flat roof offering easy access, poses a real risk.

Window Security Solutions

Stick to the rule: if you leave a room, or sleep above a flat roof, close the window, especially if you live in a flat or bungalow. If the thought of sleeping through the night without ventilation puts you off sleeping at all, we recommend window restrictors or sash stops which allow you to keep the window open but locked into place so that it cannot be opened further. So you get your air, but the window won’t open sufficiently to allow an intruder access.

If you are leaving the house, even if you are just popping around the corner, close all the windows and lock them. You never know who may have passed by and saw you leave. As much as you may want to come back to a cool home, consider the potential consequences.

Window locks should always be fitted to ground floor windows and any that are easily accessed from a flat roof. If you are replacing your windows, ensure they meet British Standard BS7950.

Doors – What are the Risks?

Many people rely on single locking latches to secure their doors. But these are easily compromised by fast and simple means. Even if you have insurance-approved, quality locks installed, it’s no good if you don’t actually use them. Rear doors, patio doors and side doors will often be left open and unlocked to get air flowing in the summer, and if you are entertaining in the back garden, it’s not uncommon for guests who are coming and going to leave doors open or unlocked.

And staying outdoors, many people admit to leaving outbuildings and sheds unlocked, and reports say that it is possible for burglaries from sheds and conservatories to increase by 25% during the summer months.

Door Security Solutions

Close all doors and lock them overnight or if you leave the room or the house. Fit quality hasps and padlocks to any outbuildings and sheds to prevent intruders gaining access to any valuables stored, or tools that could assist a break-in. If you store particularly valuable items in your outbuildings, consider a shed alarm.

Fit anti-lift devices to patio doors to prevent them being lifted off their rails from outside.

When you’re entertaining, make regular checks that guests haven’t left doors open anywhere in the house.

Keys – What are the Risks?

Undetected intrusions often involve the use of keys which can either be acquired by taking an impression or by duplicating another set.

One of the riskiest times for keys is when a property has a change of owner or occupier. Often the keys are banded about during the sale process or the pre-let period with several people having access to them, and it’s a risk that’s seldom considered.

Some security system locks require a certificate of purchase – usually a security card – to obtain additional sets of keys. A good security measure, but one that can unfortunately prove something of a hassle if the car has been lost, leading to either those particular locks not being extensively used, or sets of keys being shared and ‘left under the flower pot’.

Leaving keys in doors is another issue. An intruder may gain entry through an open window, and then find his way out – complete with your valuables – through a door where the keys have been left in the lock or somewhere visible nearby.

Keeping Keys Safe

If you’ve recently moved into a new home – buying or renting – it’s a good idea to consider changing the locks. That way you can rest assured you’ll be in full control of who has had access to your keys.

If you have locks fitted that require a certificate or security card to obtain duplicates, use the system as it was designed. If you don’t have access to the security card, replace the locks. Whatever you do – don’t share sets of keys or leave them anywhere insecure – and definitely don’t leave doors unlocked.

Lost your keys? Replace the locks immediately.

Never leave keys in locks or on show. Always remove them and place somewhere discreet, preferably in a safe if you are going out. You may well believe that leaving keys in a lock is a safety measure – to allow you swift access should there be a fire, for example – but keeping them somewhere discreet but still to hand is a far more sensible move.

Locks – What are the Risks?

Sadly, the market is flooded with cheap locks that appear to match the quality of higher end products. This of course makes selecting the best lock for your needs a very confusing exercise because what may look like a quality lock could well prove to be a false economy.

Another major issue is the fitting of the lock. Even where a good quality product has been selected, everything can fall down if the lock hasn’t been properly installed, or if it doesn’t suit the intended purpose. We see this all too often where we visit homes to replace locks after break-ins.

‘Lock bumping’ is another serious problem that is on the increase. Again it leaves no evidence of forced entry and involves an intruder using a ‘bump key’ which manipulates the lock’s pins creating a ‘shear line’, allowing the cylinder to be opened.

Getting it Right with Locks

The Master Locksmith Association is driving a campaign to educate people that good security should be guided by experts in the field. And this guidance shouldn’t carry a cost; in fact most members of the Association will provide expert advice free of charge and will employ knowledgeable staff in their showrooms who can offer the guidance that will so often make all the difference to a homeowner’s security.

A home visit by an expert locksmith is vital to check the right products have been selected to address the specific risks faced, and to ensure the appropriate door or window reinforcement is present to support the locks. When these steps are followed by a professional lock installation, the effectiveness of the locks in protecting the home will be boosted.

The message here is to get the right advice on choosing appropriate locks (which should always meet British Standards BS3621) and then ensure they are professionally installed.

High security ‘anti-bump cylinders’ have been specially designed to prevent the creation of a shear line so that the cylinder remains locked.