Home – it’s where the heart is. It’s our castle, our retreat, our refuge from the world outside. It’s where we spend time with our family, friends and loved ones – so it’s important to make sure that we only let in people who we want to be there. Jelson Homes takes your security very seriously. All the homes we build come complete with wiring for a burglar alarm (together with a fitted alarm in selected properties), as well as locks to all downstairs windows. But some of the most effective ways to protect your home from intruders have nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with thinking ahead. Jelson asked Alan Cook, crime prevention officer from Leicestershire Police, for his ten top tips for keeping your home secure. 1. Keep your doors locked It may sound simple but locking your doors – even when you’re at home – is one of the most effective security measures you can take. “Burglars are opportunists,” says Alan. “They’ll pick a street and a house and ring the bell or knock the door. If no-one answers, they’ll try the handle, and if it opens they’ll have access to your home. You may well be in the garden or in the bath and completely unaware you’ve had an intruder before it’s too late.” 2. Lock your windows Intruders will always take the easiest option. So, if you have window locks fitted downstairs, use them. If you need to open windows for ventilation, it’s best to open upstairs ones rather than downstairs. 3. Don’t give burglars a helping hand Ladders left unsecured, garden tools left out in the open for anyone to see – they’re all useful equipment for a potential burglar. Keep them locked away in your garden shed. If you don’t have a shed, make sure any ladders are chained to your back wall, so they can’t be taken. 4. Time your lights Light timing switches are a simple, cheap and effective deterrent. Use one downstairs and one upstairs, and time them to come on at different times, so it looks as though you’re moving around the house as normal. You can buy a fake TV simulator light online for just a few pounds which will mimic the glow and movement of the light cast by your TV when your curtains are drawn. Speaking of curtains, Alan warns against drawing them too early if you’re out for the night. “If you draw your curtains before you normally do – when you go out in broad daylight but know you won’t be home until after dark – it will be a red flag to anyone who’s been observing your home,” he said. “Use timed lights to suggest normal occupation, or fit blinds instead of curtains, and angle them so you can see out, but others can’t see in.” 5. Use your garage So many people keep their expensive, desirable car parked on the driveway and use the garage for a big freezer or tumble drier instead. “Ask yourself which you’d rather be stolen – your lovely, essential car, or your tumble drier?” says Alan. “If you have a garage, it’s always better to use it for your car – and it could lower your insurance premiums, too.” 6. Raise the alarm If you have a burglar alarm, use it, says Alan. “Yes, alarms are often triggered by power cuts, accidents or power surges, but it’s a myth that neighbours don’t respond when they hear an alarm going off. “Most people will look to see what’s happening and call the police if they see anything suspicious.” 7. Use a padlock A padbolt – a bolt lock with a loop for a padlock – is a must for garden gates. If a burglar does manage to get in and tries to escape via the back garden, a good strong padlock will put a stop to them. Padbolts can also be used to secure ‘up & over’ garage doors by drilling them into the concrete driveway, making it almost impossible to gain access. 8. Better safe than sorry Most burglars aren’t antique experts so, in most cases, your trinkets and paintings will be safe. “They’re after anything they can easily carry and sell,” explains Alan. “So cash, gold, jewellery, mobile phones and tablets are most at risk.” Alan advises getting a good quality home safe and installing it downstairs, where it can be secured to a concrete floor or wall, and using it to house large amounts of cash and other valuable items. “Smaller, non-secured safe boxes can be carried out by burglars to crack open at their leisure,” he adds. “It’s best not to keep large amounts of cash in the house at all. Thieves know where people hide cash – under the mattress, rolled up in a sock, in a jacket pocket in the wardrobe – and will ransack bedrooms looking for it.” 9. Be wheely careful Wheely bins left out on bin day can be a hazard for pedestrians and have traditionally proven handy for burglars to carry away their loot. This doesn’t happen so much now but can attract arsonists if they’re left out all day. If possible, make sure your bins are put away as soon as they are emptied and keep them out of sight unless they’re out for collection. 10. Don’t be too social Just as you wouldn’t put a big sign in your front garden saying “Hey! We’re all on holiday for two weeks! Come on in!”, it’s never a good idea to announce forthcoming vacations on social media. Even if you’re really strict with your security settings and understand how to limit who can see your posts, leave the holiday chat until you return. The fewer people who know your house is empty, the better. The simple precautions are usually the most effective! Thanks to Alan and his colleagues at Leicestershire Police for their help in writing this article. For the latest official police advice, follow @leicspolice on Facebook.