When I lived in London, I was introduced to a whole new vocabulary. ‘Blinding’ was a new one on me (for instance, ‘that was a blinding goal’) as was Chalfont St. Giles (don’t ask). But perhaps the most sinister was ‘London bar’.
Count your lucky stars if you don’t know the meaning of that last one. Put simply, it’s a metal security strip designed to reinforce door frames. As far as I understand it, the London bar is so-named because many burglaries in the London area are ‘kick in’ attacks. Using brute force, the burglar kicks at the door until the frame fails, splits or shatters.
I had personal experience of this when I lived in the capital. I was on holiday at the time and came home to discover my door frame in shreds. The police suggested installing a ‘London bar’ and I wasted no time in following their advice. I felt safer but was also reminded of the break-in every time I left the house.
I’d made the mistake of thinking my flat was secure. I had special chains on the hinge side of the front door, a double-lock, anti-theft measures on the windows, and bars on the back door window. But those cretins still got in, ransacked my place and made off with anything of value they could carry.
Sadly, I’m not the only one who thinks they can outwit burglars. According to new research from Co-op Insurance, more than 13 million households in the UK – that’s nearly half – are committing the most basic security faux pas.
The top five blunders are not wholly unsurprising: failure to lock the shed; leaving anything out that can be used to break a window; leaving windows opens; having deliveries hidden in the garden or outside the house; leaving ladders in the garden.
Perhaps more worrying is the number of people who share their holiday plans on social media, advertising their empty homes to thieves. The Co-op says that more than half a million households are guilty of this, and we’re just on the cusp of the summer holidays.
Caroline Hunter, head of home insurance at The Co-op, said: ‘As tempting as it is to check-in at the airport on your phone, or share pictures around the pool while on holiday, it lets followers know a little too much information about when you’ll be out of the country and when your property will be left empty.
‘Burglary is an extremely upsetting experience for anyone who happens to find themselves in this situation, however by taking simple security measures they can easily be prevented. It is easy to be distracted when you’re busy getting ready to go away for the summer holidays, but taking just a few small steps can make a big difference in keeping your home safe from a burglary.’
As the age for leaving the family nest rises and young people experience living alone for the first time, it’s not unexpected that 25 to 34-year-olds are the least security conscious, followed by 18 to 24-year-olds who are most likely university or college students living away from home; the over 55s are the most likely to secure their homes.
Jim Maddan, chair of Neighbourhood Watch, said: ‘Many burglaries can be prevented by taking basic steps to protect your home. We strongly recommend making your home look occupied when you leave it for both short and long periods, and if you’re out in the garden and you cannot see the doors or windows of your property then they should be shut and locked.’
Don’t underestimate the effects of burglary. After my break-in, I was afraid to be in the house on my own for weeks. While robbery is never entirely preventable, you can take steps to minimise the chances of this happening to you.
Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator