Autumn is a good time of year to consider your home's security.
While fewer than 500,000 homes in the UK were burgled in the year to March 2018 - just seven per 1,000 population - there was a small 6% rise in burglaries compared with the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
But how do burglars choose their targets? Well, the first surprising statistic is that most burglars look to commit their crimes during daylight hours, rather than in the dead of night. Securing your home during working hours is crucial.
Most burglars will scope out a property before deciding whether to target it. They'll check the front door to see if it is deadlocked, often by kicking the bottom. They will then most likely check the rear of the property for accessible windows or a vulnerable back door and assess any security devices they may be able to work around.
With all that in mind, the best way to keep a burglar out of your property is to prevent your home being targeted in the first place. Putting off a burglar is without doubt the best form of defence.
But what measures can you take? Here, CJ Hole runs through the best home security and deterrence steps.
BEST WAYS TO PREVENT BURGLARY
* Many burglars can pinpoint a potential target simply with a quick look at the locks. If your locks are dated and of low specification, you could be leaving yourself wide open to a burglary.
* Ensure your main door locks are high quality and include deadlocking. If they don't, update them to locks that meet British standard approved specification BS3621.
* Make sure you lock all your windows and doors when leaving the house, even just for a short time but particularly when you leave for work or go to bed at night.
* Many burglars look for opportunities to reach through letterboxes or cat flaps to grab keys nearby. Keep your keys away from windows and doors, especially doors with the above. The best place to keep your keys, including your car keys, is in a key safe.
* Install a letter cage on the inside of your letterbox to prevent burglars reaching through.
DETERING A BURGLAR
Put simply, the best way to prevent a burglary is to make your property look like an unachievable target.
Burglars will generally perform a risk assessment before trying to gain entry. Will they gain a big reward if they gain entry or are they likely to be caught doing so?
Based on that risk vs reward approach, ensure you do the following:
* Keep all valuables out of sight. If a burglar can see a laptop, jewellery and car keys near to their entry point, they are far more likely to take the risk. Hiding these items away will place doubt in the mind of a burglar. Is it worth the risk?
* Don't leave obvious signs that you are away from the property. Ask a neighbour to pop round each day to pick up the post and put it in a drawer. A pile of unopened letters on the doorstep will be an attraction to a would-be burglar. Also, keep any calendars hidden away - 'HOLIDAY TO THE MALDIVES!' written in huge letters on a calendar that can be seen from a window is a big invitation to a burglar.
* Fit an alarm system. A visible home alarm will make a burglar think twice about attempting entry. The fear of triggering that horrendous noise will generally mean your property is not worth the risk.
* Use CCTV cameras. There's no better evidence that CCTV footage and burglars know that. A well placed CCTV system will put off a burglar as they know the evidence left behind will catch them.
* Security lights and a gravel drive. Sure, a newly laid brick driveway looks fantastic, but when it comes to deterring a burglar, gravel is the way to go alongside a bright security light. A burglar is unlikely to even risk getting close to your property if their footsteps can be heard or they are lit up like an airport runway.
* Use timers. Put timing switches in place to turn on your property's lights and TV while you are away. Beware, though: Only use timers during the normal times people switch on lights and watch TV. A burglar will likely see through your security attempt if the TV is blaring and bright lights are switched on at 3am.
PROTECTING YOUR POSSESSIONS
Burglars are all about convenience. By making your prized possessions difficult to find, you are automatically increasing the chance that a burglar who does gain entry to your home leaves with nothing.
* Valuables you hardly ever use should be stored in the loft. A burglar is unlikely to go searching in hard-to-reach areas like this as they would be unable to escape quickly if found.
* Possessions you use more frequently should be stored in a safe secured to a wall or the floor. Again, burglars are unlikely to attempt a safe break-in as time is of the essence during a house raid.
* Photograph and mark your possessions with your house number and postcode. Register items with serial numbers with the Immobilise service, which will make them trackable in the event of a burglary.