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How Secure is Your Home?

I thought my house was secure. I had a UPVC double glazed front door with bolts that shot out into both the door jamb and the lintel, when it was locked. All the windows locked and on the ground floor, there were few through which an adult could climb. The back door was brand new, double glazed and a great fit.

It was my habit, when going out in the evening, to draw curtains and turn on lights, to give an appearance that the house was occupied. However, one May evening at about 8pm, when I was on my way out to dinner with friends, it was still bright daylight. I tossed up as to which would be more of a giveaway that the house was empty - drawn curtains and lights on in daylight or no lights once it turned dark. I decided that the former would look more odd - I was wrong.

When I got home at 1am, I noticed that the side gate was open. I thought that was odd, but went on to open the front door. It felt draughty in the hall. It was - the back door was wide open. The thieves had jemmied the new door from its frame. Judging by the marks on the frame, they had had to make several attempts but the neighbours hadn't heard a thing.

I was lucky in a way. The thieves had only stolen small, portable valuables - and darn cheek, a pillowcase to take them away in. The TV, video recorder and stereo remained untouched. There was no damage, or cupboards and drawers emptied out. They seems to have gone straight for where the valuables were. Curious, I thought.

Actually, not so curious. I had had workmen in and out of the house in the preceding weeks, while I had a small extension to my kitchen built. I had given them a key because I couldn't take that much time off work to supervise them. They had been alone in the house for hours on end and could easily have had a good look round to see what was worth stealing, in order to pass the information on, if not to do the deed themselves.

I learnt a couple of things from this incident. If you have to let a stranger have keys to your house, make quite sure that there's nothing of any value on view and secondly, your neighbours are probably too engrossed in their own business to pay any attention to what's going on next door.

When the insurance money came through, I did two things. I bought a small safe. It probably wasn't sturdy enough to put off a real professional burglar, but bolted to the floor, it was quite adequate to deter a casual thief. Secondly, I installed an alarm system. It wasn't attached to a monitoring service but it was VERY noisy. With sensors and tremblers on all the downstairs doors and windows, no intruder was going to get in again without making a huge racket and hopefully, alerting half the street!

Take a look at your own home security - it might not be as effective as you think.

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