Safe as houses

With the number of thefts and burglaries rising, prioritising home security has arguably never been more important. Dr Steffan George of the Master Locksmiths association offers advice on securing homes during construction and over the long term.

While cases of theft and robbery have fallen substantially over the last decade, the latest figures show that the number of recorded cases reported to police are, in the short term, on the rise. During the year to September 2017, burglaries were up 8 per cent to 433,110 compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, thefts from a motor vehicle rose 15 per cent to 276,823 in the same period. It is therefore vital that housebuilders and homeowners take steps to improve the security of their properties during the construction phase and beyond.

Building sites are prime targets for thieves, with plenty of expensive tools and materials lying around, so make sure to keep a sharp eye on the security of your site. While checking that gates are fitted with suitable locks may be an obvious step, make sure to check the perimeter of your site on a daily basis as well. Fencing should be fully intact with no bolts, hinges, handles or damaged sections which could work as footholds for entry, or large items such as bins that may have been positioned to provide easy access.

To make sure security isn’t being overlooked, introduce a robust security routine, including clear roles and responsi- bilities. Use chains, bollards, and anchors to secure machinery, and secure storage for power tools when not in use, even during the day. Ensure everything is locked away overnight, and if vehicles are being left on site, make sure to park ‘defensively’, with doors positioned as close as possible to walls or other vehicles to make access difficult. Consider getting perimeter alarms and site CCTV systems installed.

When it comes to the buildings themselves, be sure to design-in security from the outset and invest in high-quality security hardware that has been independ- ently approved. Ensuring you have the correct locks on windows and doors will not only keep your property safe, it’s vital for meeting specified insurance requirements.

A patented lock system that is unique to the property is a worthwhile investment, as keys cannot be copied without proof of ownership. While initial investment in patented or restricted locking systems tends to be higher than ‘off-the-shelf’ locks, in the long run this could potentially save money.

At the very least, be sure to use products approved by a third party certification agency such as Sold Secure. Their website provides an easy to use tool for checking specific products.

In what is of the most frequently made mistakes, what many people consider to be the most common locks are actually brand names, not types of locks. There is a wide variety of different types of locks on the market all intended for different purposes – so it’s vital you check the suitability of specific types. Ideally, seek professional advice from your local Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)-licensed locksmith.

Smart security is growing in popularity, but be careful if you are considering invest- ing in the latest technology. While the UK has for a long time had excellent security standards for mechanical security – including BS 3621, 8621, 10621, BS EN 1303, BS EN 12209 and PAS 24 for complete windows and doors – the first safety standards for smart locks have only just been published. As a result, the smart security industry as it is today has developed without this guidance, and none of the currently available smart locks have yet been tested against the new safety standards. For this reason, the considers smart security to be a secondary security measure and advises against using it as primary security.

Investing in deterrents such as alarms, timer lighting and CCTV is worthwhile. Research has shown that a home without a security system is 300 per cent more likely to be burgled, yet despite this, 70 per cent of homeowners admit they don’t have a burglar alarm. A professionally specified and fitted safe is also a great option for keeping unused valuables such as expensive heirlooms and jewellery out of sight.

Security can be a confusing business, and so it is always recommended that you contact your local MLA approved locksmith to give you advice on bespoke security solutions for your property and your requirements, as well as helping with installation. Most importantly, be sure to seek advice from a trusted professional. Unlike other professions, there are no restrictions on who can set themselves up as a locksmith, so quality and expertise can vary significantly.

The MLA is recognised as the only authoritative body for locksmithing by the police, and all of its members undergo strict vetting, including criminal record checks, and undertake regular training, so you can be confident they have the knowledge, experience and integrity to keep your home safe and secure.

Dr Steffan George is managing director of the Master Locksmiths Association