It is an unfortunate fact that an increase in unemployment tends to produce a corresponding increase in crime and the latest figures from the Home Office suggest that this was true of the recent recession. The number of people out of work in the United Kingdom actually fell by 33,000 to 2.45 million in the three months to January 2010, taking the rate of unemployment down 0.1% to 7.8%. This was, however, the first quarterly fall in the unemployment rate for more than 18 months and, in the interim, the number of domestic burglaries increased. In fact, the number of domestic burglaries rose for the first time in six years last year, up to 284,427 from 280,694 the year before. According to the British Crime Survey (BCS), in 20% of cases householders came face-to-face with burglars.
The consequences of burglary can obviously be financial, although the financial impact can be lessened, at least to some extent, by adequate buildings and contents insurance. What many burglary victims find more difficult to cope with, however, is the emotional trauma caused by burglars invading their privacy, regardless of any damage they cause or items they actually take. The older the victim, the more likely he, or she, is to suffer from the effects of victimisation.
The majority of burglaries tend to be carried out by opportunistic thieves, acting on the spur of the moment, rather than with any degree of forward planning. Burglars tend to choose homes that are, or appear, empty, have few or no signs of security and where they can enter and exit unobserved. Doors and windows tend to be the most obvious entry and exit points, so an understanding of the types of doors, windows and locking systems available can help homeowners to make their homes as secure as possible.
The Police Service recommends that exterior, front doors should be constructed from solid timber and secured by a 5-lever mortice lock, which complies with a British Standard (BS3621:2007), in combination with a deadlocking, or deadbolt, rim lock. A deadbolt lock is one of the more secure locks available; it features a heavy metal bar that can be slid between the door and the wall and thereafter can only be unlocked from the inside. When used alongside another lock, a deadbolt can provide maximum security insofar as it affords protection against a door being kicked in, or rammed and against more sophisticated techniques such as picking or bumping. Lock bumping is a simple but effective technique which exploits a weakness in the design of the traditional pin tumbler lock cylinder; a specially prepared bump key, cut down to the deepest cut at each pin position, can, if struck correctly, separate the pins long enough for the lock to opened. Some, but not all, deadbolts can be opened by the bumping technique.
Popular brands of lock for domestic and commercial applications include the Legge Heavy Pattern 5-Lever Deadlock, which is built to the latest, BS3621:2007 specification and is therefore suitable for external doors. A brass deadbolt with two, hardened steel inserts, an anti-pick keyhole protection means that the lock meets the requirements of domestic insurance policies. In terms of rim locks, which should only be used in combination with a 5-lever mortice lock, the Union 1439 Scotch Rim Lock is also popular; it is mounted onto the door face in traditional fashion and is suitable that open inwards and are up to 50mm thick.
A domestic back door, too, should be made of solid timber, with a BS3621 5-level mortice door lock and two surface mounted or mortice rack bolts.