Protect your home
Good home security is the best way to reduce your chances of being burgled. A lot of burglaries are spur of the moment, as a burglar may see an open window or other easy point of entry and take their chance.
When you go out, always lock the door and close the windows - even if you are just going out for a short time.
Window locks, especially on older windows, will help stop people getting in (and remember, a burglar is less likely to break in if they have to smash a window).
If you have deadlocks, use them. They make it harder for a thief to get out again. But don't leave the key near the door, or in an obvious place.
Don't leave spare keys outside, or in a garage or shed, and put car keys or garage keys out of sight in the house.
Use timers for lights and radios if you need to be away from home overnight. They will create the impression that someone is in.
Visible burglar alarms, good lighting, and carefully directed and limited security lighting can act as deterrents. But make sure that lights don't disturb your neighbours, and that alarms turn off after 20 minutes.
Fences at the back of the house may make this area more secure, but walls and solid fencing may let a thief break in without being seen. A good compromise is chain-link fencing, or trellises with prickly shrubs.
Fitting a 'spy hole' allows you to see who is at the door. Having a door chain means you can open the door a little way to talk to them.
Make sure that any improvements you make don't stop you from getting out of your house as quickly as possible if there is a fire.
Who can help you do this?
If you rent your house or flat, your landlord has some responsibility towards its security. If your home is not secure, ask the landlord if they will make necessary improvements. It will be cheaper for them to fit window locks than to mend a broken window.
If you live in social housing, or in a block of rented flats, forming a tenants' association might make security easier.
Spending money on security measures can seem daunting, but it is a good investment, will last a long time and can add value to your property.
Contact your council or local police for help. They may be able to advise you on the best measures to protect your property,
There are laws (planning regulations) which govern many of the changes you can make to the outside of your home, including building walls and fences. However, you do not need to apply for planning permission for everything.
Unless you live in a listed building, or your council has removed your 'permitted development rights' (your rights to carry out limited development without applying for planning permission), you can build a fence or boundary wall up to one metre high where it will be next to a road or footpath, or up to 2 metres high elsewhere. These height limits would include, as a part of the wall or fence, any barbed or razor wire you put up.
If you use barbed or razor wire, under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 you may take reasonable precautions to prevent injury to other people caused by dangers on your property. If you are building a wall on the boundary with your neighbour, you may need your neighbour's permission (under the Party Wall Act). If you live somewhere, such as an estate, where there are restrictions in force, you may need to get special permission.
For more information:
If you are not sure whether you need to apply for planning permission, you should contact the planning department of your council. You can get an explanatory booklet, 'Planning – A Guide for Householders' from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) Free Literature on 0870 122 6236 or go to www.planning.odgm.gov.uk/householders/index.htm .
You can find more information about the planning system, including the control of small-scale development and permitted development rights, from the Planning Inspectorate's "Planning Portal", at www.planningportal.gov.uk
You can also get the following Home Office leaflets from your local Police:
Personal safety at home
Securing your property will make you safer in your home, and make your home and your belongings safer while you are out.
Here are some guidelines for dealing with different situations you may find yourself in:
If you think you have an intruder, only you can decide how to deal with the situation. Think about what you might do now – you might not be thinking clearly in a real incident.
You may respond differently if you are alone in the house, or if there are other people there.
You could make a noise and hope it puts them off, or keep quiet and hope they don't come into your room.
You could keep a phone in your bedroom so you can raise the alarm. This may also make you feel safer.
It is generally best not to challenge an intruder.
If you come home and find a broken window or lights on, and you think there may be a burglar inside, you may think it best not to go into the house.
Go to a neighbour's house and call the police, or ring the doorbell – someone who should be in the house will come to the door, whereas intruders are likely to run away.
Abusive phone calls
If you get an abusive or threatening phone call, do not respond to it. The caller wants a reaction from you, just tell them to stop calling you and refuse to say anything else.
Put the receiver next to the phone and move away. Return some minutes later and hang up.
You may want to make a record of when and what is said when you receive calls, so you can see if there is a pattern.
Dialling 1471 may help you see what number the call came from. Some phone companies offer a service which blocks calls from people who have withheld their number.
At night, unplug your phone or turn the ring off, so that you are not disturbed.
Do not give your name or number when you answer the phone.
If you are receiving many abusive calls, contact your phone company or the police for help.
Most people who come to your door will be genuine callers. But it's best to make sure.
Fitting a door chain or spy hole will help you check who the caller is.
If you were not expecting someone to call, a genuine caller will not mind waiting outside while you contact their company. Find the phone number in the phone book, or look on your last bill.
Most companies have a password scheme you can register with .
If you let someone into your home, even if it is someone you know, and you become uncomfortable, make excuses and leave. Go to a neighbour's house, or ask a friend to come back with you.
The law on self-defence
Under the law you are entitled to use reasonable force in self-defence or to protect another person or your property.
The force that it is reasonable to use in any situation will depend on the threat that you are facing. For example, the level of force that you can use to defend your life is greater than the force you can use to defend your property.
What 'reasonable force' is will depend on the circumstances of each case and is something that only the courts can decide. This does not mean that if you injure a criminal while defending yourself or your property you will necessarily face criminal charges. But if the criminal complains that you have used unreasonable force, the police must investigate.
In the heat of the moment and in a panic it may be hard for you to assess the level of danger that you face. However, if charges are brought against you, the courts take account of what was reasonable for you in those circumstances – they will make some allowances for 'heat of the moment' panic.
The courts believe that if you did only what you honestly and instinctively thought necessary to prevent a crime, that would be strong evidence that you used only reasonable force. Generally, the courts use common sense and take account of what it is like to be faced with a violent or possibly violent criminal.
he law does not allow you to retaliate. Punishing criminals is a matter for the courts and you must not take the law into your own hands by trying to punish an offender for a crime committed against you, your friends, or your family.
Older people may feel more vulnerable to some crimes, but are actually less likely to become victims. A few simple steps can also help reduce your risk of crime.
Think about getting a personal alarm to use if you trip or fall at home.
Don't keep large amounts of cash at home – use a bank account instead.
Look after your pension book carefully.
Ask your landlord to fit door chains and spy holes, or ask the council to help you if you own your home.
Many councils have security schemes that are aimed at older or more vulnerable people. You could ask them for advice.
For more information:
Phone the Age Concern information line on 0800 00 99 66 or visitthe Age Concern website www.ageconcern.org.uk
You can also get copies of the Home Office leaflet 'How to beat the bogus caller' from your local Police
Protecting your property
Computers are a popular item to steal. Making sure your home is secure will help guard against this, but there are some extra steps you could take.
Keep your computer in a locked cabinet, or lock the door to the room you keep it in to make it harder to steal.
Use security screws and bolts to make it harder for people without the correct tool to open the casing to steal parts (but check with the manufacturer that this does not affect any guarantee)
Use passwords, make back-up copies on disk and 'watermark' documents. This will help protect your copyright and will mean you have a copy of your work if the computer is stolen.
Be very careful with financial information. For example, don't send your bank details in an e-mail. If you are ordering goods over the internet, make sure the company has a secure server.
If you need to carry a laptop computer with you, try to be discreet about it. Many laptops have distinctive bags, so try to put it in something else, and follow other personal security advice. It may also be useful to carry disks in a different place.