Keeping your home safe

POLICE have issued the following advice to homeowners about keeping their property safe from burglars.

BURGLARY FOCUS

Tackling burglary is a priority for police in E District who are constantly working to reduce the number of burglaries in the area and educate local residents on how they can best protect their property.

Burglary can have a devastating effect on its victims - an intrusion on someone’s personal space and a violation of their feelings of safety. The reality is that the vast majority of burglaries are opportunistic. Thieves and criminals will grab an opportunity where they see it. If they notice an open door or window they will take a chance.

Police can conduct patrols, target hot spot areas, analyse different trends and patterns but they cannot be everywhere all of the time so everyone must take steps to protect their own property and reduce the opportunities for thieves to strike!

One of the most important messages we can send to home and property owners is - If you notice something suspicious or out of place contact police immediately. Our best chance of detaining offenders and obtaining evidence is to catch someone in the act!

The following articles focus on different types of burglary and theft and the crime prevention measures you can put in place.

DOMESTIC BURGLARY

There are straight forward steps that every householder can take to make their home secure.

Before you leave your home go into each room and make sure all windows are tightly shut and locked. You may want to consider buying window locks. A burglar may be less likely to enter your home if a window needs to be smashed.

Check all doors leading into your home are secure and locked.

Ensure your main garage door is shut and locked.

If there are bicycles or toys sitting around outside your house put them away.

If you are going to be away from home ask a neighbour to leave your bins out, make your house look occupied by putting lights and/or a radio on timer switches and inform local police of the dates your property will be vacant.

We cannot stress how important it is to look out for your neighbours. The chances are that if a criminal targets one house in a particular street they may try another a few doors up. You know who lives on your street so if you see someone acting suspiciously note down any important details such as description or car registration and contact police immediately.

It could also be worthwhile finding out if there is a neighbourhood watch scheme in your area.

GARDEN SECURITY

To make it harder for criminals to target your garden furniture, ornaments and equipment you should take the following steps.

Protect vulnerable areas such as windows, fences, boundary walls and drainpipes.

Well positioned external lighting can help to keep intruders away.

Keep your shed in good condition. Fit a closed shackle padlock to the door. Fittings should be bolted through the door and any screws concealed. Fit meshes or grilles to the windows and invest in an alarm.

Make sure that large items such as bicycles are chained together. It is much more difficult for a thief to carry away a lot of large items.

Ladders should be locked to a secure fixture in the shed or garage so they cannot be used to access upstairs windows.

Valuables should be marked with your postcode.

Check that your household insurance policy covers garden or shed equipment and find out if any minimum security standards apply.

OIL THEFTS

With an increase in fuel prices and the colder weather approaching it is advisable to take steps to prevent heating oil thefts.

Check your heating oil regularly and often.

There are many devices on the market for measuring how much oil is in your tank - buy one and use it.

Invest in security features for your tank such as lockable fuel cap and sensor lighting coverage.

Make it hard for an intruder to gain access to the rear of your home. Install locks to the area of the tank.

Use plants with thorns or spikes around your oil tank.

Consider a shed audible alarm.

Make sure that your boiler is securely locked up with a good quality padlock.

Mark your boiler with your post code and house number using an engraving tool.

Be a good neighbour and report anything suspicious around a neighbour’s home such as persons taking hoses through to oil tank or looking around someone’s property.

CREEPER BURGLARY

A creeper burglary is when thieves will enter your home to obtain the keys to your vehicle. This makes it a great deal easier for criminals to access your car given the technological advances in vehicle designs. Many cars are now almost impossible to start without having a key.

To make it as difficult as possible for anyone to take your car you should: Do not leave your car keys in open view or an obvious place. Store them away. Ensure your car is locked, even if it is parked on your own property. If you park you car in the drive way then consider fitting substantial gates. Always secure your home and ensure doors and windows are locked so that there are no opportunities for thieves.

BOGUS CALLERS

Bogus callers are criminals who will call to your house under a false pretence in an effort to gain access or to get a look round your home to identify opportunities to steal.

Bogus callers depend on the good nature and good will of others. They tend to target the more vulnerable members of our society and in particular, older members of our community. It is always advisable to be cautious of unexpected callers. It is worth remembering that bogus callers will use all sorts of tactics to gain access to a victim’s home. Many pretend to be from utilities companies wanting to check water/electricity etc. You should remember that any genuine caller to your door will have identification which you have every right to ask for and verify. Everyone should follow this advice when dealing with unexpected visitors: • Before answering your door, ensure your back door is locked. • Think before you open the door - use your chain and spy hole or look out of the window to see if you recognise them. • Ask callers for proof of identity. Genuine tradesmen should carry a photographic identification card. Check this carefully. If you are unsure, telephone QuickCheck on 0800 013 22 90. • Beware of callers who attempt to distract you by claiming that they have seen something untoward in your rear garden or somewhere that may encourage you to leave your house - they may have an accomplice who is waiting to act upon this distraction. • If you are not convinced of the identity of the caller, don’t let them in. Ask the caller to come back later and arrange for a friend, relative or neighbour to be present on their return. Police would also urge householders to follow some common sense crime prevention measures. Reassessing your crime prevention routine is an important first step. Ensure your windows are locked as well as doors and make use of security lighting and alarms. Police would also advise householders to refrain from keeping large sums of money in the house. Neighbours can also play a part in helping protect the more vulnerable in their community. Residents should try to look out for one another and report ALL suspicious activity to the police immediately. The non emergency police number is 0845 600 8000. In an emergency dial 999.

QUICKCHECK

The QuickCheck Freephone scheme is a 24-hour Freephone service which enables householders to challenge and independently verify the identity of anyone calling at their door. The majority of utility companies operating in Northern Ireland have signed up to and actively endorse the QuickCheck scheme, which was first launched in 2008. If you are suspicious or unsure of the identity of a caller to your home then asked for photographic identity. If you remain unsure telephone Quickcheck on 0800 013 22 90. The call is free and will be answered by a trained operator. They will take the details of the company, which the caller claims to be visiting on behalf of, then contact the organisation to determine if the caller is genuine. If there is anything suspicious the operator will contact the police directly. Police recommend that you save the quickcheck number - 0800 013 22 90 - and the police non-emergency number - 0845 600 8000 - on your speed dial at home so that both are easily dialled if you need to make contact. THEFTS FROM VEHICLES

Thefts from vehicles are largely opportunistic crimes. If a thief sees something of value sitting in your car then they will break in to get it.

The most important piece of advice we can give to motorists is to ensure that your vehicle is always locked and secured when unattended.

Simple precautions such as closing the windows and locking the doors of your vehicle and locking valuable items in the boot of your car, or removing the face plate from your in-car stereo system you can help ensure that your valuables will be kept safe. Taking just a few moments can significantly improve your chances of not becoming a victim of this type of crime.

Improved car security features such as alarms, immobilisers and tracking devices can also help protect your vehicle and your valuables. As it only takes a matter of seconds to break into a car, we would also urge local residents to promptly report all suspicious activity they notice near vehicles, or car alarms that have been activated, as this will help to deter and help us to detect those involved in this type of crime.

We would encourage all members of the public to contact police if they notice anything unusual or out of place in their local area - it is better to get something checked out and find nothing untoward than realise later that a crime was being committed. Police can be contacted on 0845 600 8000.