Crime figures might be down (there were 20% fewer reported burglaries in 2004/5 than 2003/4), but we all know that keeping our home secure is vital; the good old days of being able to go out and safely leave our doors unlocked are long since gone – if they ever truly existed. Older people in particular are worried about crime, especially against person and property, and they should be. With regular stories in the press about pensioners as crime victims, who can blame them? Although the Home Office statistics show they’re no more at risk than anyone else, they feel vulnerable. But there are a number of things the elderly can do to be more secure at home.
Door viewers (peepholes) are very helpful, as they allow you to look out through the front door without opening it, which can be especially useful in a flat. In some areas, Social Services can make referrals to have these installed without charge.
Make sure your door has a mortice lock, the standard for houses these days (a five-lever mortice lock is the most secure). To make it even more effective, add a cylinder rim lock, although you need to check that you door’s thick enough. If it isn’t, buy a “high security rim deadlock” instead.
As long as they open properly, we don’t think about door hinges. But they also need to be sturdy. You should use long screws to secure them, and hinge bolts give yet another layer of security.
If you’re thinking of replacing your front door, consider a fibreglass door, which is both stronger and safer, but you need a sturdy frame. If you have glass in your door, replace it with laminated glass.
Sliding glass patio doors give great access to the garden, but they’re very vulnerable to break-ins. The best thing you can do is fit special security locks (with mortice security bolts and removable keys) at the top and bottom to keep the fame in the runners – the sliding section should always be on the inside.
According to the police, fitting window locks greatly reduces the chance of burglary. That makes them a very worthwhile security addition (in fact, many insurance companies now insist on them, so check your policy closely). Some types let you open the window fully, but lock when you close it, whilst others only allow partial opening – the advantage there is that no one can enter even when the window’s open. If you have wood frame windows, use wooden beading for the glass, put in with long security screws.
Likewise, you need to check metal-framed windows for loose catches or corrosion. Modern PVCu windows can have their problems, too. Sometimes the beading’s on the outside, in which case you need to use security tape and glazing clips on them.
Security Lights and Alarm
Security lights that come on when they detect motion can be a great deterrent against burglars – after all, who wants to be in the spotlight when they’re trying to break into a house? Install the over both front and back doors – but be very careful when adjusting the area the sensors cover or they’ll be flashing on all the time.
For some a home security system gives peace of mind. Whilst it covers the whole house, the biggest drawback is the cost of installation, as well as monitoring, if you use that. A major point to also consider is that you also need to be able to remember your code and reach the control panel quickly to turn it off upon entering, so it’s not a viable alternative for the less mobile or forgetful.
A quarter of all British houses are now part of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, and it’s been proven to be extremely effective. Some insurance companies even offer discounts on premiums to members. For the elderly it adds an extra level of reassurance, knowing others are keeping an eye out for them. If your neighbourhood doesn’t have a watch programme, you can always start one – contact your local police or the National Neighbourhood Watch Association.