This Sunday – 29th October – the clocks go back, giving us an hour longer in bed, but darker evenings. This might be a blessing for many of us (yes, I would rather get up at 6am than 5am, thanks very much), but the darker evenings can also be a blessing for burglars. I learnt this the hard way at this time of year two years ago – between Halloween and Guy Fawkes night – when my parents’ house was burgled while they were away for a couple of days. The combination of noisy fireworks – which drowned out the sound of burglar alarms – and trick or treaters (which meant that strange cars went unnoticed) meant that they had an easy job on their hands. The early darkness also means that more homes are left empty while it’s dark outside, as people come home from work after dark.
Even if you don’t live in a remote area, homes empty after dark are still vulnerable. A friend of mine had her house – on a busy London road – broken into before she came home from work at 5.30pm. That wasn’t in October, but in December, when it gets darker earlier still. Data released by Policy Expert shows that while the average time a worker gets home from work remains constant, at 5.04pm, in December the average home is left empty, and in darkness, for well over an hour every day.
There are plenty of things that can be done to try and overcome this problem. Burglar alarms may go off all the time (and be drowned out by fireworks), but they are still worth having. Other options include exterior lighting, CCTV cameras, timed lights inside the house and so on. Neighbourhood Watch schemes are also a good idea – and perhaps particularly helpful for keeping an eye on things when both fireworks are trick-or-treaters are rife. But strangely, the same research from Policy Expert shows that only 10% of those surveyed had CCTV, 32% had a burglar alarm, and 43% had timed lights indoors. On top of all that, over a quarter of people questioned said that they didn’t take any measures – aside from locking the door and shutting the windows – to protect their house from break-ins. Of course, none of these things are fool proof – but it doesn’t cost much to install a burglar alarm, and if it saves the hassle and financial losses that a break-in might cause, then it’s probably worth the effort, no?