• It can take under two minutes for a criminal to break a cylinder lock
  • Don't give criminals a place to hide near your property
  • Could your rubbish give criminals a clue?

1. Not having any visible security in place

According to police estimates, homes without security measures, such as burglar alarms, are five times more likely to experience a break-in. 

'Installing home security alarm and CCTV systems is an excellent deterrent for potential intruders,' says Richard Jenkins, chief executive of the National Security Inspectorate (@NSI_Approved), a certification body for the security and fire protection industries.

'Options range from simple 'bells only' alarms, to 24/7 alarm monitoring, and police response systems as well as options for CCTV.'

There are also plenty of smart security devices on the market and home security inventions that are worth considering.

2. Having a cheap and flimsy door

'Cheap, panelled doors can be easy to kick down,' says Martin Herbert, managing director of burglary prevention systems supplier Banham Group (@BanhamSecurity). 

'We recommend replacing flimsy doors and frames with strong, quality doors. By having a high-security door fitted with good quality locks, you can have peace of mind that your home is more secure and less likely to be targeted.'

Two men replacing a window in somebody's home

3. Not maintaining windows or using suitable locks

'With more than 40% of burglaries in England and Wales involving a forced door, and the average criminal taking one to two minutes to break a basic cylinder lock, it's well worth making sure your cylinders on any external doors are immune from snapping,' argues Stephen Roberts, marketing manager at Yale UK (@YaleSecurity). 

He says people should consider using locks with the BSI Kitemark, adding: 'Any burglar would understand the amount of effort involved to snap such a lock. It can offer the highest level of protection for your home.'

Steffan George, managing director of the Master Locksmiths Association (@MLA_locksmiths), adds that poor quality, badly maintained doors and windows could be a sign to a burglar that security isn't a high priority. 

'Ensure regular maintenance of doors, windows and locks,' he says. 'Make it clear locks are used, windows and doors are sturdy, and clean outside lights regularly to maximise visibility.'

4. Not securing outdoor equipment

Any tools that have been used outside should be locked away, says Martin Herbert. 

'Tools like ladders and wrenches left outside your property may be used by burglars to force entry,' he says. 'We advise keeping them locked in a garage or a secure shed with a steel padlock.'

This is true even if you're going to be using them again the following day. 

5. Advertising an empty property

Paul Lewis, chief technology officer for Crossword Cybersecurity (@crosswordcyber), warns against posting countdowns to holidays on social media.

'The surest way to protect yourself would be to not specify where or when you are going away at all,' he says. 

'If you really need to broadcast that you are away, change your privacy settings to limit who can view your online content – for example, only allow friends with whom you are connected to see your posts.'

Steffan George suggests being careful not to share other information that might be useful to thieves. 

'It's vital you never give out any information that indicates when the property may be vacant,' he says. 'For example, don't put things on a calendar that's easily visible from outside your property.'

A laptop in the centre of the photo with a hooded man, out of focus, looking at it through a window in the background

6. Leaving valuables in sight

Valuables should not be kept in view of windows, says Anthony Neary, managing director of safe.co.uk (@talkwithsafe). 

'Keep them out of sight – if a burglar can't see anything worth taking, they're less likely to attempt a break-in.'

7. Having overgrown hedges

Looking after hedges and plants is also a good deterrent, says Steffan George. 

'It's a good idea to keep them tidy to not allow any places for people to hide,' he explains. 'This will make it more obvious if anyone is acting suspicious close to the property.'

Gail Hunter, senior director and general manager of home protection company ADT (@ADT_UK), advises using other external measures that will immediately alert you to someone on your property. 

'Make your property difficult to approach for unwanted visitors,' she advises. 'Installing noisy gravel driveways and external motion-sensing lights are ways to deflect would-be thieves.'

8. Leaving gates and other access doors open

'Be mindful of what's visible from the exterior of your premises,' says security expert Andy Blackwell, managing director of Blackwell Security Consulting (@bsc_secure). 

'Leaving access doors open and on the latch, even for short periods of time, can provide opportunities to criminals.'

A set of keys on a table, with a person in the background staring at them

9. Storing keys within easy reach

'People shouldn't leave a spare key outside – thieves know this trick and will look for one under the door mat and potted plants,' says Neary. 

Similarly, keys should not be left near the letter box.

'Thieves can 'fish' the keys from your hallway and use them to get in,' he says.

10. Not varying your routine

'Creating uncertainty will help deter burglars,' says Andy Blackwell. 

'This ranges from using timers to activate lights, televisions and other sound systems, to not being too predictable in your movements, as this could provide useful signs to criminals that indicate when the property will be unoccupied.'

11. Leaving out the wrong kind of rubbish

'Carefully disposing of packaging from items delivered to your house, particularly high value goods, is important to avoid advertising the fact that there's property worth stealing on the premises,' adds Andy Blackwell. 

Likewise, receipts and documents containing financial or personal information should be shredded before being thrown away, he says. 

'They could benefit criminals by providing data about what's inside your property. Don't make your refuse bin an information treasure trove for burglars and fraudsters.'

While there are no guarantees, taking these simple steps and investing in appropriate hardware might well help to deter a burglar. For more peace of mind, check whether your home insurance offers you the right coverage.

Read our other articles for more tips on keeping your home safe: find out what the telltale signs of an empty home are, and discover how you can keep your home secure in winter and in spring.