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Crime and security

This page contains information on keeping your home secure and explains what to do if your accommodation is broken into.

Locks and other security devices

Make sure that all the doors and windows to your property have adequate locks - and make sure you always lock up before you go out! Doors should be fitted with a five lever mortice lock and windows should fasten with a key, which must then be kept out of sight. However, make sure everyone in your home knows where the keys are kept in case of an emergency such as a fire. Doors and door and window frames should be strong and in good condition, so they can't be broken easily.

You could also consider fitting:

  • a chain on the door
  • a spyhole
  • an intruder alarm.

If you live in rented accommodation and don't feel the property is sufficiently secure, ask your landlord to fit new or additional locks. The section on repairs in private housing and council accommodation look at what you can do if your landlord refuses to carry out essential changes to your home.

Protecting valuable items

Try not to leave valuable items in places where they can easily be seen from outside. You could also consider marking valuable items with an ultra-violet pen, so they can be identified if they are stolen. Take photographs of items such as jewellery or antiques which can't be marked.

Entry phone systems

If you live in a building with an entry phone system, it's important that you use it properly to keep the property secure. Don't let in people you don't know, and don't leave the door open.

Neighbourhood watch

Neighbourhood watch groups consist of local residents working together to improve security in the community and help prevent crime. They have close links with the local police and other crime prevention agencies, and can warn residents of crime trends in their area. Members may also keep an eye on each other's homes during holidays or share useful security devices such as timer switches. You can find out more about joining a local group or setting up your own group on the Association of Scottish Neighbourhood Watches website or by reading the page on neighbourhood watch.

Other security tips

  • Never leave an extra key hidden outside your home (for example, under a doormat or flower pot).
  • Always lock up the garden shed or garage, and don't leave anything lying around that could be used by an intruder to break in (for example, a ladder or tools).
  • Don't leave packaging for new appliances and goods outside your home. Always crush it and put it in the bin or recycle it.

Going away

If you're going away, there are several things you can do to secure your home:

  • Leave a light on if you're going to be out during the evening, but not so as to draw unnecessary attention to your home.
  • Ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your home when you're away. This could include opening and shutting curtains, switching lights on and off and making sure post and papers are pushed through your letterbox properly.
  • You could also consider getting a timer switch to control the lights automatically. You can buy these from most DIY stores.
  • Remember to cancel paper and milk deliveries before you go away.

Bogus callers

Bogus callers pretend to be officials from the council, engineers from gas, electricity or water companies, police officers or salespeople in order to gain access to people's homes and steal money or property. They usually carry fake identity cards and can seem very convincing.

How do I protect myself from bogus callers?

If someone calls round at your home, it's best to take the following precautions:

  • put the chain on the door before answering it - if you rent your home and don't have a chain, ask your landlord to fit one for you
  • ask to see identification
  • check their identification isn't fake - ask which company they represent, then phone the company to check the caller is genuine. Don't phone the number the caller gives you - look the company's number up in the phone book
  • ask a neighbour or friend to come round while the caller is there.

Priority service register

If you are disabled, have a chronic illness or are of retirement age, you can join your gas and electricity supplier's priority service register. As part of this service, you can give your gas and electricity suppliers a password to be used by anyone they send round to your home. Contact your gas and electricity supplier to join their PSR scheme. If you get your gas and electricity from different suppliers, you'll need to register with both of their PSR schemes.

How can I prevent bogus callers preying on my neighbours?

Bogus callers tend to prey on elderly and vulnerable people who live alone. If you are concerned that any of your neighbours may become victims of bogus callers, let them know that they can ask you for help if they're not sure about the identity of callers.

How do I report bogus callers?

If bogus callers visit you or any of your neighbours, you should call the police straight away - you can find the number of your local station in the phone book or at the Scottish Police website. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

What happens if my home is broken into?

If your home is broken into, the first thing you need to do is call the police. Call 999 if you think the burglars may still be in the area; otherwise call your local police station. You can find the number in the phone book or on the police website. Don't go into your home if you think the burglars may still be there, and don't tidy up until the police have arrived and checked your home over - you may destroy useful evidence.

Who do I need to contact?

If any credit cards, bankcards or chequebooks are missing, call the bank immediately to cancel them. You'll also need to contact the pension or benefit agency if your pension or benefits book are missing, and the DVLA if your driving licence is stolen. You should also call your insurance company - they should have a 24-hour emergency helpline which you can usually find on your insurance policy or on the company's website (see 'insurance' below).

What happens when the police arrive?

The police will ask you to fill in a report listing everything that's missing and any damage that's been done, and will then talk to you about securing your home. You may need to call a locksmith, joiner or glazier if locks, doors or windows have been broken. If you rent your home, you'll also need to call your landlord. They will probably be responsible for repairing any damage caused during the break in.

Where can I get help?

Having your home broken into can be extremely upsetting and you may be left feeling angry, shocked, insecure, violated or depressed. If you need someone to talk to, call the Victim Support Scotland helpline on 0845 603 9213 or visit your local office - you can find contact details on the Victim Support Scotland website. Victim Support Scotland offers free confidential advice and emotional support to victims of crime, and can also provide practical assistance in dealing with the police and your insurance company or securing your home against further break ins.

Insurance

If you own or rent your home, it's a good idea to have contents insurance to protect your furniture, electrical goods, clothes, carpets, curtains and other belongings. This will cover you if your goods are stolen or damaged. If you rent furnished accommodation, your landlord's insurance should cover anything that belongs to them, but you will still need your own insurance for your possessions. If you are a student, some insurance companies offer special reduced rates, so shop around for a good deal.

Find out more

  • Victims of Crime in Scotland is a Scottish Government website offering help and advice for anyone affected by crime. It contains information on reporting crime, police procedures and victim support.
  • You can also get information on crime prevention and community safety from the Scottish Government's Crime Prevention Unit on 0131 244 3995. The line is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

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The important points

  • If your home is broken into, the first thing you need to do is call the police.
  • If you own or rent your home, it's a good idea to have contents insurance to protect your belongings.
  • Join your local Neighbourhood watch group.
  • You can get information on crime prevention and community safety from the Scottish Government's Crime Prevention Unit on 0131 244 3995.

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