'Insecure home' warning as temperatures set to rise
7 August 2012
RESIDENTS who leave their homes vulnerable to opportunist burglars risk invalidating their home contents insurance.
The warning – from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) – comes as latest figures showed an increase in the number of properties broken into during the recent heat-wave as a result of windows and doors being left open.
Around one in 10 of all break-ins are down to homes being left insecure – but when temperatures soared two weeks ago more than a fifth (21.7%) of burglaries in the West Midlands were committed by ‘sneak-in’ opportunists.
Between Monday 23 July and Sunday 29 July – when temperatures topped 30-degrees – there were 53 ‘insecure’ burglaries recorded.
Chief Inspector Darren Walsh said burglary rates had fallen considerably in the last year – but that the number of victims could be further reduced through basic home security.
And with temperatures expected to hit the high 20s later this week, he added: “There is a temptation to leave windows and doors open during spells of hot weather. But there are opportunist thieves who’ll look to take advantage of home security lapses – and they only need a matter of seconds to sneak in through open windows or doors.
“We have seen incidents of homeowners leaving lounge windows open whilst they’re in the back garden and later discovered a thief has nipped inside. And half of all insecure burglaries happen between 8pm and 3am so residents should also be wary of leaving windows ajar after going to bed.
“Our advice is to keep windows closed in unoccupied rooms, especially easily accessible ones on the ground floor, and don’t leave valuables on show and certainly not within reaching distance of a window.
“And as the ABI has said, there is a chance people could risk invalidating insurance if they’re found to have been negligent when it comes to home security.”
Neighbourhood police teams have formulated hot weather patrol plans which are triggered whenever a heat-wave is predicted.
The plans see additional officers on the beat in ‘risk’ areas on the lookout for suspicious activity and to offer residents crime prevention advice.
A spokesman for the ABI, said: “Insurance policies, terms and conditions vary, but there is a danger that if you don't take reasonable steps to protect your property against opportunist burglars you could jeopardise your cover.
“Good security measures complement your insurance cover by giving you peace of mind, knowing your home is well protected.
“However, some things are irreplaceable, like wedding rings, special jewellery or family photographs with sentimental value that can’t be measured. It’s therefore important to do all you can to prevent your home being burgled in the first place.”
Burglary rates across the West Midlands are falling: last year there were 3,200 fewer break-ins compared to the previous 12 months.
And the downward trend has continued since April with 894 fewer burglary victims when viewed against the same four-month period in 2011…that equates to a reduction of 17.7 per cent.
Police have issued some simple steps to prevent you becoming a victim of a burglary:
• Freeze out opportunist thieves during heat-waves – don’t leave windows open in unoccupied rooms
• Enjoying a summer BBQ in the back garden? Make sure front windows and doors are secure.
• Half of all insecure house burglaries occur between 8pm and 3am – check windows are closed before going to bed
• Don’t leave valuables on show through windows – and certainly not within reaching distance of an open window
• Don’t leave upstairs windows open when you leave the house – they may seem out of reach to an agile burglar could access it
• Don’t leave items in open porches that could be used to enter your home e.g. curved-handled umbrellas to open doors or ‘hook’ keys through letterboxes
For more summer crime reduction tips visit the West Midlands Police’s dedicated ‘Safer Summer’ website: www.west-midlands.police.uk/safersummer