The month of September marks the beginning of a new year for many people, perhaps none more than university students, who may well be leaving home for the first time. Whether you’re living in halls or a student house, home security has never been more important. Student houses are regularly targeted for burglary because they offer a unique opportunity to thieves. Generally, the amount of electrical equipment such as laptops, smart phones, televisions, etc. per person will be much higher than the average family home.
Households’ with residents aged 16-24 are the most likely to be burgled, as are households where the inhabitants have been living there for less than a year. These statistics support the claim that student houses are amongst those most at risk, so we would now like to offer some tips for all the freshers and returning students to help ensure that their home for the year is safe and secure.
1: Check Before You Move In. If you are moving into a house this year, it is important for you to check what security measures are in place already, that way if it is inadequate you can ask your landlord to change it or add extra measures. If they refuse to do this then consider going with a different landlord. Someone who does not care about their tenants’ security probably isn’t the most trustworthy person to be contractually bound to.
2: Keep Doors Locked. In 72% of cases, a burglar will enter through a door, 15% of which will be because it was unlocked. Pair this with the fact that over half of burglaries will take place with the victim still in the property and this should be reason enough to keep doors locked at all times. Burglars are opportunists, and will strike wherever they think they can get in and out without detection. This is especially important if you live in a large student house, or perhaps don’t talk to all of your housemates. If you hear anyone in the house, check who it is. Similarly, if you have any spare keys to your property, make sure they are given to people you trust.
3: Keep Windows Locked. This tip is particularly important for students as many student houses will have downstairs bedrooms, and thieves are aware of this. In a quarter of burglaries in 2012/13, thieves entered through a window, and a fifth of these incidents were because the window was open. If you leave your laptop and other valuable possessions in your room or in a communal space downstairs, they are at risk. Whenever you are not in the room, make sure windows are locked tight.
4: Lock Your Bedroom Door. Student houses or halls are required by law to have individual locks on bedroom doors. This is to help keep you, and your possessions, safe from potentially dishonest individuals. This rule applies particularly to students living in halls, or those who do not know all of their housemates’ friends, as typical student life will involve a lot of strangers roaming the halls. To put your mind at ease, make sure you lock your bedroom any time you leave it, whether this is to use the bathroom, pop down the hall, or even make dinner. The unique scenario of all valuables being in one small room means that a thief can be in and out in mere seconds.
5: Hide Your Valuables. In case someone does gain access to your room, it is important that you hide your valuable belongings such as your laptop any time you aren’t using them. For a student, a laptop will often contain most if not all of your essays and research, the hassle that losing it could bring to your academic life is not worth it. It is also a good idea to back up everything you write onto a memory stick, an online service (Sky Drive, iCloud, etc.), or even by emailing yourself attachments, just in case. This advice also stands any time your home is open to a large amount of visitors (aka a party); if your room is unlocked, your belongings are vulnerable to unwanted attention. Thievery is not the only threat to your valuables either, as things have a tendency to get broken at rowdy get-togethers.
6: Mark Your Property. For most, being burgled means potentially never seeing stolen items again. The police, however, now work with several services which can greatly improve your chances of being reunited with your property. The simplest idea, and one regularly endorsed by police, is to use a UV pen to mark valuables like your laptop or television, with information such as a post code or telephone number. The police check stolen items that they have seized for any kind of distinguishable markings, and this includes checking under UV light. Alternatively you can register your property online using Immobilise.com (see separate blog post here), which allows you to upload photos of your property, as well as any additional information, to an online database regularly checked by all UK Police forces to help reunite stolen items with its’ owners.
7: Social Media. One of the most up-and-coming burglary techniques is to use location settings to watch houses for any opportunity to strike whilst no one is in. You can read our full blog post about this here. To summarise, it is important that you do not broadcast any details that may indicate to a thief that your house is empty, and secondly, posting pictures or statuses about new purchases is essentially providing an online itinerary for burglars. Help combat this growing trend by disabling your location settings across all social media.
We hope that these tips have been useful to students who may be worried about living without their parents for the first time. Good luck in your education and be safe!
All statistics from ons.gov.uk
— Yale UK (@YaleSecurity) September 18, 2014