FakeTV burglar deterrent

It’s well known that a burglar is more likely to avoid a home they believe is occupied, which is why it’s often recommended to leave the TV or a lamp on if you plan to be out for the evening.

However, if you’re going away on holiday you obviously don’t want to leave an electrical item on for that period of time. Recently I’ve found a device online that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television, which looks pretty convincing!

FakeTV produces exactly the same sort of light a real television makes so from outside it looks like someone is inside watching TV. Apparently the light mimics the effects of scene changes, colour shifts, and on-screen motion. I don’t think they’re available to buy in stores in the UK yet, but I’ve spotted a few in-stock on Amazon and Find Me A Gift.

I haven’t been paid to promote this by the way, I just thought it was a pretty nice burglary deterrent idea!

Lock snapping and snap safe locks

I wanted to include the information below in to my blog post Protect your home – Burglary prevention advice, as my previous blog post showed that a quarter of all burglaries in West Yorkshire are being committed by criminals using a technique called “lock snapping”. However, I thought I’d create a separate article to explain what exactly it is.

Following the concerns raised by West Yorkshire Police relating to the vulnerability of Euro cylinder style locks used mainly on uPVC doors, Yorkshire Police have issued the following advice: “Now is an ideal opportunity for householders to carry out a full review of all of their security arrangements including the replacement of Euro cylinder locks, which can be done fairly simply.”

What exactly is “lock snapping”?

A video from BBCs Inside Out – “Lock Snapping – The Euro Cylinder Lock Vulnerability”

As the name would suggest, this is where the lock cylinder is literally snapped in two by applying force to the cylinder. Thieves have devised methods of snapping these types of cylinders locks in a matter of seconds and are still able to operate the lock to open the door.

This threat can be considerably reduced simply by upgrading the cylinder to one that is specifically designed to prevent this method of attack. We recommend that all vulnerable doors using Euro-Profile cylinders be upgraded to incorporate ‘break secure’ cylinders.

How do I know if I have vulnerable locks?

Euro cylinders are mainly fitted to uPVC doors but some aluminium and wooden doors also use this type of lock, however you can’t tell from the outside if it is a vulnerable lock, it would need to be dismantled. Although this is fairly simple to do, my advice would be to contact a registered locksmith for advice.

If you have a Secured by Design door fitted after 2010 you can be confident that it will have a “Break Secure” lock. Please note this applies only to Secured by Design doors and not all doors.

So, what’s the solution?


Snap safe locks, are specifically designed to combat lock-snapping. A cylinder has been designed that will snap, however it will snap in a predetermined position leaving intact a portion of the cylinder that will still provide security and still require key operation to open, thus preventing the easy manipulating of the locking system.

A qualified locksmith can offer a full installation and upgrade service to meet your needs; or a replacement break secure euro cylinder can be purchased from any recognised DIY store. Replacement lock cylinders should meet all parts of the exacting British Standard Kitemark (BS EN 1303:2005) accreditation scheme. The minimum recommendation for wooden doors is five-lever mortice locks which carry the British Standard BS3621.

The Yorkshire Police recommend that if you have traditional nightlatch (commonly known as a Yale lock) fitted to your doors, do not rely on this as the only method of security. You must fit other locks, preferably deadlocks.

For more general household security advice check out my article Protect your home – Burglary prevention advice, or if you would like further information on snap safe locks or a free household security check contact me on 07711 294 248.

Source: BBC News and Yorkshire Police

Rise in ‘lock snapping’ burglaries in West Yorkshire


The BBC have reported that a quarter of all burglaries in West Yorkshire are being committed by criminals using a technique called “lock snapping”.

Since 2009, there has been a rise in the technique, which involves applying force and snapping the cylinder in two.

West Yorkshire Police said it was mainly prevalent with euro cylinder locks and urged concerned residents to seek crime prevention advice.

Ex-burglar Peter Findlay said snapping the lock was “simpler and quicker”. Mr Findlay, who now works with police to help them with crime prevention tactics, told the BBC’s Inside Out programme: “If I had the best lock picks in England I wouldn’t bother using them, I’d just snap the lock.”

Police said the technique first emerged in Bradford a couple of years ago and now accounted for more than a quarter of all burglaries across the force area.

Figures for December show that 27% of all burglaries across the county involved lock snapping on euro cylinders. Euro cylinder locks are fitted to millions of properties, usually UPVC and other double glazed doors.

Ch Supt Paul Money, from West Yorkshire Police, said: “These locks are vulnerable to this type of attack but it can take between 50 seconds and two minutes to force the lock. “It you’re unsure about the standard and quality of your locks, contact your local crime reduction officer who will provide advice free of charge or contact some of the not for profit organisations of which there are a number in West Yorkshire.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers are working with the door and lock industry to come up with a new British standard for locks. Mr Money said: “What we want to do is ensure that the new British standard locks are a lot stronger and can resist attack.

“I wouldn’t want to put a specific time frame on it but currently the testing is extensive and the new locks are now in the process of being tested.”

Neil Goldup, managing director of security organisation Community Action and Support Against Crime (CASAC), said: “My one wish would be to get rid of these cylinders.”

In my next blog I’m going to write about what lock-snapping is, and how to prevent it. As the BBC article above shows I really can’t emphasise enough how much I’d recommend getting your euro locks upgraded to snap safe locks. If you’d like an estimation for replacing your locks, don’t hesitate to contact me and, as always, stay safe.

Source: BBC News

Protect your home – Burglary prevention advice

Burglary is a serious issue in the UK and it can be both financially costly and emotionally devastating for victims and their families.

The Metropolitan Police have recently revived Operation Bumblebee and in an attempt to reduce the number of break-ins they are advising the public to “think like a burglar”.

Burglary can have a long-lasting emotional impact on victims, leaving them feeling isolated and vulnerable. However, by taking just a few simple measures outlined in this blog post you can reduce the chances of it happening to you.

Why might your home be targeted?

Most burglaries tend to be opportunistic, rather than planned. Burglars usually choose houses that have little or no visible security. So if your home does not look secure, seems unlived in, or provides unobserved access, it could be at risk. Understanding what burglars look for when choosing their target will help you identify weak spots in your home’s security.

What makes your home attractive to burglars?

A high front boundary

Solution: Make sure your front wall is no more than one metre high, so a burglar could be seen from the street.

Low side and rear boundaries

Solution: Make your side and driveway gates the same height as the boundaries around them.

Wheelie bins accessible

Solution: Store wheelie bins or other potential climbing aids behind locked gates, so burglars can’t climb up on them.

No visible intruder alarm

Solution: Alarms are undoubtedly the most effective deterrent against burglary. To maximise the deterrent, place external active burglar alarm bell boxes (with flashing lights and sounders) at the front and back of the property. Police recommend an installer who is affiliated to an inspectorate, either the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security System and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). Be aware that DIY alarms will not necessarily receive a police response.

No security lighting

Solution: Exterior lights will make it more difficult for burglars to stay undetected when they’re trying to break in. Make sure they’re designed to be tamper-proof or at least positioned where it’s difficult for intruders to reach them. As a further deterrent, you can also leave interior lights switched on or use timer switches to make it look as if you’re at home – even when you’re out.

Valuables on display

Solution: Remove valuable items from easy to grab areas such as windows and near external doors. Marking or etching your postcode and house number on items that are particularly valuable is a good deterrent to thieves because they know these items are more easily traced by the police, and it reduces their ability to sell these items on. The Police can talk you through the best way to mark specific items, whether that’s indelible pen or with one of the proprietary chemically-coded systems now available. Additionally, if marked your property can be traced, identified and returned to you. Items with a unique serial number can be registered for free at immobilise.com – the UK National Property Register. Registration increases the chance of having your property returned. In fact, over
900 people every month are contacted about recovered items.

Open or unsecured windows

Solution: On the ground floor and for other windows that are easily accessible, key operated locks are essential. Window handles should be multi-locking, with shoot bolts into the frame. Extra security can be added to externally beaded windows with security clips, security tape or sealant. Louvre window panes must be secured to prevent them being removed, or consider replacing them with a solid glass panel.

Unsecured garage door

Solution: For garages with metal ‘up and over’ doors, purpose made locks can be fitted to either side, about 300mm up from the floor, to reduce leverage. Wooden garage double doors can be secured with two substantial hasps and staples and closed shackle padlocks. An external floor mounted, solid steel locking ‘T’ bar with a closed shackle padlock, will offer a good visual deterrent and make it more difficult to open the door. Garage side and rear
doors can be secured with BS3621 5-lever mortice locks and two internal mortice rack bolts, one near the top and one near the bottom.

Unlocked shed

Solution: Thieves are attracted to garden sheds because they contain many every day, unmarked items that are easy to sell, and they’re often left unlocked or unsecured. Always keep sheds and outbuildings locked and maybe put thorny plants nearby. Ensure your insurance covers theft from sheds and gardens. If you don’t have a shed, wrap a heavy padlock around tools and secure to an anchor device.

Paved path or driveway

Solution: Gravel driveways and paths make a silent approach more difficult.

What to do before you leave your home.

When you leave your home it’s important to ensure you leave it as secure as possible. Getting into an ‘exit routine’ can help ensure that you don’t forget obvious, but important things, like not leaving your valuables near windows. Here’s our quick check list to keep in mind:

  • Close and lock all your doors and windows, even if you are only going out for a few minutes.
  • Set your burglar alarm.
  • Make sure the side and/or back gate is locked.
  • Lock your shed or garage.
  • Make sure that any valuables are not in sight.
  • Put keys out of reach of letterboxes.
  • In the evening, shut the curtains and leave some lights on.
  • Never leave car documents or ID in obvious places such as kitchens or hallways.

If you are going to be away for days or weeks at a time, you will need to take additional action, such as cancelling newspaper and milk deliveries. Consider asking your neighbours to close curtains, or park on your drive. Use a timer device to automatically turn lights and a radio/TV on at night.

For more burglary prevention advice check out the Metropolitan Police’s ‘virtual house’, which is a tour designed to advise you on areas that may be vulnerable in your home, or check out their full advice on burglary prevention.

If you would like the reassurance of a professional, please feel free to contact me for a free household security survey. I’m just one of four locksmiths operating in West Yorkshire that is approved and vetted by the United Kingdom Locksmith’s Association (UKLA), and I’m also one of only a few local locksmiths approved by the Local Police Authority. Give me a call on 07711 294 248 and keep safe.

Worth a watch TV: Robbed, Raided and Reunited


Burglary is a crime that happens every minute in the UK, and can affect anyone, so it’s no surprise that the BBC has commissioned Robbed, Raided and Reunited, a programme that interviews victims who have had their lives turned upside down by the crime as well as following dedicated policemen and women as they track down and arrest the burglars.

The series shows just how emotionally draining and devastating a burglary can be, for example the first episode, which aired 16 Jan 2013 and is still available on BBC iPlayer, showed an elderly widow who is burgled and discovers that some of her late husband’s treasured possessions have been taken.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, there are some extraordinary stories of victims who have been reunited with their stolen possessions, for example there is an incredible story of how police tracked down the stolen medals of one of Britain’s most decorated firemen, and returned them to his family.

The next episode airs 23 Jan 2013 on BBC2 and I think it’s definitely worth a watch especially if, like me, you like to see the bad guy get his comeuppance!

Appeal: Theft of Medals, Crewe Road, Castleford


West Yorkshire Police are appealing for anyone offered World War Two service medals for sale to get in touch.

Medals from the conflict , including a ’39-45 Star’, were taken during a burglary at a house on Crewe Road, Castleford at 6.30am and 3.15pm on Friday 21 December.

The medals belonged to the householder and had been passed down by his father who fought in the war.

Other items of strong sentimental value were taken during the burglary including a George V Sovereign Ring, World War Two knives including two 12 inch blades one with a dark brown handle, the other a yellow one and two German Secret Service daggers. A sovereign necklace, charm bracelet, wedding bands and a signet ring were also stolen along with some money.

Officers are appealing for anyone who has information about the burglary or anyone who is offered any of the items to contact Wakefield CID by dialling 101.

Source: West Yorkshire Police

“It only takes a minute” – winter 2012 burglary campaign

Student burglary victims in Leeds have spoken about their experiences on film as part of a campaign to encourage their peers to tighten up their security in the run-up the Christmas.

West Yorkshire Police and the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds are working alongside student safety website knowledge-leeds.co.uk to highlight how simple crime prevention measures can save students from becoming victims of burglary.

Areas with high student populations, such as Woodhouse, Hyde Park and Headingley, have been some of the worst for burglary primarily because thieves know student houses are likely to contain multiple laptops, smartphones and other portable gadgets.

Another key theme in student burglaries is that a high proportion of them involve lax security such as unlocked doors and windows.

The on-going crackdown on burglary across Leeds has seen dramatic reductions in the number of offences, particularly in student areas, but it is still felt that more could be achieved by getting home security messages across to students. Students heading home for the Christmas holidays are also being reminded to take valuables with them and leave their term-time accommodation secure.

As part of the on-going ‘It only takes a minute’ burglary awareness campaign, two films have been produced showing the impact that recent burglaries have had on students in Leeds. These are being broadcast on the West Yorkshire Police and Knowledge websites, YouTube and promoted on Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness.

One film features Jo Doyle, who was a second year Linguistics and Phonetics student at the University of Leeds, when thieves broke into the student house she shared with eight others while she was out at party.

Her biggest regret was that she hadn’t locked her room as some of her housemates had locked theirs and were not targeted. She lost her laptop, iPod and a purse that had sentimental value as it had been an 18th birthday present.

She admits the experience has made her more security conscious and that she always double checks that locks are on and always sets the alarm.

The other film features three housemates, Cecily Tapp, Holly Richards, and Holly Domellof, who are all students at the University of Leeds. They lost cash, cameras, iPods and irreplaceable jewellery when thieves broke into their house.

They had an alarm but had not switched it on, which police later told them would have deterred the burglars if it had been set to go off.

They got their landlord to install better locks and add other security measures and now always set the alarm when they’re out.

Chief Superintendent Dave Oldroyd, who is the lead officer for the district on burglary, said: “These stories really hit home how upsetting it is to be a victim of burglary. We are very grateful to these students for talking about their experiences on camera to help us encourage others to take home security seriously.

“We hope that hearing direct from fellow students themselves about the impact these offences had on them will encourage their peers to take note and do all they can to avoid becoming a victim.

“At the same time we will continue to focus our attention on reducing the number of burglaries in the city even further by prioritising the areas most at risk and relentlessly targeting the offenders who are behind these crimes.

“We have had some real successes recently that have seen organised gangs of burglars sent to prison for lengthy periods. That work is continuing and we remain firmly committed to doing all we can reduce the number of burglaries in the city.”

If you’re worried about burglary, please check out my blog post Protect Your Home for helpful hints and tips, or contact me for a FREE household security survey.

Source: West Yorkshire Police

West Yorkshire PCC election: Mark Burns-Williamson wins


Mark Burns-Williamson has been elected as West Yorkshire’s first police and crime commissioner (PCC).

He beat Independent candidate Cedric Christie after second preference votes were counted. Turnout in West Yorkshire was just 13.3% with more than 8,000 spoilt ballots.

Mr Burns-Williamson, who has been a member of the county’s police authority for 13 years, will set priorities for the force and oversee its budget.

The West Yorkshire force serves about 2.2 million people and has a budget of £411m.

Mr Burns-Williamson said he felt humbled to have received more than 100,000 votes.

He was critical of the government over how the elections had been held which had, in his view, resulted in a low turnout

“It is now up to me and the other 40 police and crime commissioners elected today to establish themselves and legitimise this post by listening to everyone who relies on their local police force,” he said.

Last year the force announced it was cutting nearly 2,000 members of staff by 2012 in a move to save £27m from the budget following government spending cuts.

Mr Burns-Williamson said he would continue to fight against cuts to police budgets in West Yorkshire and the rest of the region.

He said: “The public of West Yorkshire have declared they have no support of this irresponsible slashing of the police service.”

Source: BBC News & Police Crime Commissioner: West Yorkshire

Locked yourself out of your house? Here’s what NOT to do

If one day you come home and discover that you’re locked out of your house I would strongly recommend calling a local locksmith and not, as Lorean Simmons did, set fire to your house.

A local Pittsburgh newspaper has reported that Simmons, 57, came home to discover she’d locked herself out. Instead of calling a locksmith however she proceeded to set fire to her awning so that the fire department would respond and open her door.

When the firefighters arrived and put out the fire, which nearly spread to neighbouring homes, they caught on to her little scam and called the police. She was arrested and charged of arson.

Source: Newsnet 14

Leeds to combat high burglary rate


More than £1.3m is to be spent by Leeds City Council over four years to reduce the number of burglaries.

The city was criticised by the Audit Commission for its burglary levels in 2009-10. Despite improvements in 2010-11 the city had 8,869 burglaries, the third highest rate in England and Wales.

Councillor Peter Gruen, chairman of Safer Leeds, said: “Burglary is a real crime. It touches people for a long time, and leaves emotional scars.”

Safer Leeds is the crime reduction partnership for the city.

A Leeds City Council report into reducing burglary in Leeds stated that there is an established social acceptance of burglary in the city’s criminal subculture and that it is seen as a “crime of choice”.

In 2010, over more than 1,600 individuals were arrested for one or more burglary offences. However, the figures for burglary are not distributed evenly across the city.

The biggest yearly increase of 28%, was experienced in Chapel Allerton. Armley, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill also saw high increases in burglary.

Mr Gruen said the money would be spent on improvements that would make a “measurable difference”. He suggested that council-owned properties would be fitted with more expensive locks.

Mr Gruen also said the number of police and police community support officers on the street made a difference and he was “mindful that high visibility is a great deterrent”.

Another target is to reduce and disrupt the market in stolen goods.

Several reasons have been suggested why Leeds has a high burglary rate, for example the high numbers of privately rented houses in multiple occupation, often with poor security measures. Also, it has one of the largest student populations in the UK, many living in private rented accommodation. Similarly, more of the affluent areas are often located close to deprived areas.

Source: BBC News