Yesterday I was in Cambridge commissioning a security system following some alterations at a secure youth offending centre. Over lunch, I decided to eat in the main canteen area where both staff are young people are encouraged to eat together at large round tables; with a healthy selection of food on offer I seized the opportunity to mingle with everyone. The ‘security company’ branding on our clothing always attracts a relative amount of comradery amongst young people, with most of them suggesting our systems are no match for their strength or know-how.
Once we got past the initial 10 minutes of what I would consider ‘showing off’, we actually got down to some very serious conversations about what they had learnt following their experiences on the streets. Many had committed burglary multiple times and showed little sympathy for the victims of their crime suggesting that they had ‘asked for it’. Without taking myself down a path of arguing about the impact and heartache they will have caused to the residents of these properties, I decided for focus my efforts on trying to understand how the criminal mind looks at a prospective ‘job’, as they called it.
I picked up on many helpful points whilst listening to their stories, but I focussed a lot of my efforts of trying to judge how distressing the various stages of burglary are. Interestingly, it seems that many of the burglaries committed by these young people weren’t actually planned and calculated in the days beforehand, but simply based on a quick analysis of a few houses within an area and a gut instinct on what home looked like the easiest to target.
It appeared that the most distressing and worrying point for a burglar is selecting the house to target where they are sure that nobody is home. All they wanted was an empty home, where they weren’t going to be disturbed whilst looking through the contents of the property to pick out the highest value items.
Now I could write a 5000 word blog on what I have learnt within my 30 minutes with these young people, but I’ve chosen to focus on this one point today, and I’ll expand on the rest over other posts.
What were the most important things they look for in establishing if someone was home?
- Is the TV on?
- Are there people moving around the house?
- Is there a car on the drive?
The car on the drive was the least important to them, after all most households have two cars, and holiday goers often get taxi’s to the airport these days. A garage would also leave a question mark over whether the vehicle was actually stored away safely inside.
Detecting peoples movement around the house was also very difficult, as the curtains or blinds are usually shut in the evening, and this makes it very difficult to tell who’s home.
The TV seemed to be the biggest indicator to my young lunch crowd. “Everyone watches TV at night” proclaimed one man, to which the whole table agreed. Simply by wondering up a street at 9pm, gently kicking a football, these youngsters could easily identify who was home. Shortly followed up by a knock on the door, or a ring of the doorbell would usually confirm any doubts as to a residents occupancy status, and if nobody stirred the house was good to go.
Last night, I took a walk up and down my street at around 9:20pm. The glow of TV’s flickering through the gaps in the curtains gave me a very clear indication of who was home. In some cases, I could see the curtains open, the mail protruding from the letter box, and a wheelie bin left out on the street from the collection two days ago.
It was too easy… Every house is signalling it’s occupancy status to a passerby, and inviting the burglars to investigate your building security weaknesses further.
Following a little Google time on my return home, I came across the following item called ‘Fake TV’! Place this item in an upstairs room located at the front of your house. Simply plug it in, switch it on, and replace it if it ever stops working. This simple but genius little device senses when it gets dark, and uses low power LED’s to simulate the multi colour flickering of a TV. It even turns itself off after 4, or 7 hours depending of your setting selection.
A little time on Google will find cheaper prices I’m sure, but as Rossells are a big supporter of protecting the brick and mortar high street, I’m recommending you go to Maplins: http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/response-faketv-tv-simulating-anti-burglar-and-theft-deterrent-a65lq and pick one up for just shy of £25.
Whether the curtains are closed, or open… a prospective burglar will assume you’re home and simply walk on by.
Following on from our previous blog post regarding Neighbourhood Watch groups, I will be setting out some neighbourly pointers for protecting your community from becoming victims of crime in the coming holiday months. For those wondering, I did put my neighbours bin away, and push the post through their letter box fully. I’ll also pop round when they’re home to offer my assistance if they go away again.