Old rules, new tech: how to keep your home safe

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

It’s not ev­ery day you will­ingly in­vite a bur­glar to poke about your house. But af­ter some­one man­aged to break into my car which was on my drive and had a rum­mage around, I felt vul­ner­a­ble. Data from the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics show this is part of a grow­ing trend: there was a nine per cent rise in re­ported bur­glar­ies in 2017 com­pared to the year be­fore.

Michael Fraser, an ex-of­fender turned se­cu­rity ex­pert on the BBC show Beat the Bur­glar, agrees to give my house the once over. I’m feel­ing quite smug: I have an alarm and a side gate, along with lock­able win­dows. Lean­ing on my front door, he says that the bot­tom lock is not on. Even dou­ble lock­ing at night isn’t good enough. “A cylin­der lock isn’t re­ally a lock,” he says. “If the sec­ond lock isn’t en­gaged, I’d be in there in sec­onds.”

My big old fash­ioned sash win­dows are a dan­ger, says Fraser. “They mean I can see straight through the win­dows. You won’t do it, but you should pull your blinds down, even when you’re at home, so that no one knows if you’re in or out, and can’t see what you’ve got in there.” My win­dow locks, which are ba­si­cally a gi­ant screw, are not the right kind. “You can see they’re the old-type win­dows. You just push a screw­driver up there and get in.”

I’m left reel­ing, but it’s valuable in­for­ma­tion. Fraser learnt his tricks while grow­ing up in care as a teenager: “There was a lit­tle gang that would go out and do bur­glar­ies and I joined it when I was 14. We’d do schools, flats and houses. But when I was 17, I was due in court for re­ceiv­ing stolen goods. The so­cial worker told me the next time this hap­pened, as I would be 18, it would be prison. I was ter­ri­fied. I went out, got a job and stuck at it.” He worked at an alu­minium com­pany where the owner took a chance on him, and Fraser evi- dently shone. He was paid by the hour to cut out locks and started mak­ing them so fast that the owner in­cen­tivised him to stay with him rather than mov­ing on. Soon he re­alised that by work­ing for him­self he could earn even more, and by the age of 21 he was a mil­lion­aire. To hon­our the sec­ond chance he was given, he set out to em­ploy other ex-of­fend­ers.

De­spite this, he says a sense of guilt is the rea­son he is now pas­sion­ate about spread­ing ad­vice on home se­cu­rity, through TV shows, his book and through con­sul­ta­tions with home own­ers. “I’ve got a lot of guilt from my past,” he says. “It’s not an ex­cuse but I didn’t fully re­alise what I was do­ing and the harm I was caus­ing. Now I do and, be­cause it’s so easy to out­wit a bur­glar, I feel that it’s im­por­tant I help peo­ple now.”

Along with the more lo-fi tech­niques, Fraser says the best se­cu­rity ad­di­tion I should make is buy­ing a wire­less se­cu­rity cam­era. “It won’t sur­prise you to learn that my house is very se­cure. I’ve got one out­side and a few in­side,” he says.

Re­search by Co-op In­sur­ance last year found that 89 per cent of bur­glars said they would avoid a prop­erty if they saw a se­cu­rity cam­era.

But it hasn’t yet fil­tered down to the con­sumer: a sur­vey by Which? last year found that just 10 per cent of its mem­bers have a se­cu­rity cam­era in their home. They are quickly get­ting more hi-tech, cheaper and eas­ier to use. Nest, the tech com­pany which also sells ther­mostats and smoke alarms (both of which con­nect to and can be con­trolled by your smart­phone) launched an out­door se­cu­rity cam­era last month. The com­pany’s in­door cam­era can send out alerts about any move­ment in the house when you are away – and you can even shout at a po­ten­tial in­truder via the cam­era.

Fol­low­ing Fraser’s ad­vice, I set up the lat­est Nest Cam IQ out­door (£329; nest.com). It’s easy to do, although you will need to use a ma­sonry drill bit to con­nect the cam­era into the mains if you don’t have an out­door power socket.

It sends alerts to my phone when some­one ap­proaches the prop­erty, it knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween a per­son and an an­i­mal, and it au­to­mat­i­cally records every­thing. You do, how­ever, need to be cau­tious that cam­eras do not point into neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties, or the street, to com­ply with the Data Pro­tec­tion Act. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by BBC’s Panorama this week also warned of the pos­si­ble dan­gers of the hack­ing of in­ter­net-en­abled cam­eras due to pass- words that weren’t up­dated. Swann, the home se­cu­rity com­pany, has also recently launched a new range of out­door cam­eras, in­clud­ing one tar­geted at renters, such as the Smart Se­cu­rity cam­era (£119.99; swann.com), which is a no-drill, wire­less de­vice that you glue on to a wall, and which has night vi­sion.

There’s also a big­ger beast, the Swann True De­tect (£329.99; swann.com), with a ther­mal sens­ing CCTV sys­tem equipped with pas­sive in­frared mo­tion sen­sors, night vi­sion and hard drive space that al­lows record­ings for up to a year. I put this one up at the back of the house; Fraser says if the front looks too se­cure, thieves of­ten take a look there.

Home se­cu­rity is on the cusp of get­ting even more hi-tech. Both Swann and Nest are due to launch video door­bells later this year, while Ring, a start-up that Ama­zon pur­chased in Fe­bru­ary, al­ready has a ver­sion on the mar­ket (£89; ama­zon.co.uk).

“We are see­ing the rise of ‘porch pi­rates’, those thieves who swipe pack­ages from doorsteps,” says Lionel GuicherdCallin, head of prod­uct mar­ket­ing at Nest. “Video door­bells offer a so­lu­tion for on­line shop­pers, pro­vid­ing the abil­ity to be alerted when de­liv­er­ies ar­rive, com­mu­ni­cate with driv­ers and stop po­ten­tial thieves with vis­ual and au­dio de­ter­rents.” The Nest Hello video door­bell, which will be com­ing to the UK later this year, can even dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween friends and fam­ily and use your Google Home smart speaker to an­nounce who is at the door.

Fraser is ex­cited by the new prod­ucts com­ing to mar­ket, but says that we still need to be aware of basics. “Dou­ble lock the door, lock any gates you have, and shred things with your name and ad­dress in the wheelie bin,” he says. “It’s sim­ple stuff but most of us don’t do it, and thieves know it.”

Be sure to lock the gate and win­dows and watch out for ‘porch pi­rates’

Michael Fraser, an ex-of­fender who of­fers se­cu­rity ad­vice

Nest in­door cam­era, £159 (nest.com)

Swann ther­mal cam­era, £129.99 for two (swann.com)

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