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7% of burglar alarm owners have had real or attempted break-ins, Which? reveals

Keep safe with our burglar alarm advice, plus five steps to securing your home

Burglar breaking into a house

7% of burglar alarm owners have experienced a real or attempted burglary since owning their alarm, and 1 in ten of those have been targeted more than once, according to a Which? survey.

Earlier this year, we asked 3,412* burglar alarm owners about their experiences. 211 reported having had a real or attempted burglary – 58% of these people had experienced one real burglary, while 10% had experienced two or more. 56% had experienced a burglar attempting to enter their house who had then been discouraged, or entered but didn’t take anything.

For most people, their alarm went off as a result of the break-in, and the following actions were taken:

  • for 26% the owner or a neighbour notified the police;
  • for 17% a neighbour intervened in the burglary;
  • for 14% a contact with a key went to their home;
  • for 11% their alarm monitoring company notified the police;
  • for 10% their alarm monitoring company them to alert them;
  • for 10% they stopped the burglary from happening themselves.

Read on below to find out more about the different types of alarms, including monitored, stand-alone and smart, and discover five ways to protect your home. If you’re looking to buy an alarm, discover which alarm companies come top and bottom of our brand table in our guide to burglar alarms rated.

Monitored vs standard burglar alarms

Stand-alone alarms, which are sometimes called bells-only alarms, will simply make a loud noise when triggered. But unless someone you know is in the area or a friendly neighbour gets in touch, nothing will happen.

With a monitoring contract, on the other hand, you pay a monthly fee to a company, which is then alerted when your alarm rings. Depending on the type of contract you have, they will contact either the police or a nominated contact (called a keyholder).

Policeman visiting a house after a burglary

These contracts can cost around £300 to £400 a year, so they’re not cheap. But they can give you piece of mind.

There are a couple of other options to consider, too – speech dialler or smart alarms:

  • Dialler burglar alarms automatically dial your phone number, or that of a nominated contact, when your alarm is triggered.
  • Smart home-security systems contact you or family members when your alarm goes off through a smartphone or tablet app.

You’ll still need to pay a small ongoing fee for these – for a dialler alarm you’ll need to make sure its internal SIM card is topped up, like a pay-as-you-go phone, and with a smart alarm you may need to pay for data to be stored online in a cloud.

Visit our page on burglar alarms explained to help you decide which type of alarm is right for you.

Maintaining your burglar alarm

For 38 of the people we asked, their alarm didn’t go off in a real or attempted burglary. The reasons included:

  • the alarm sensors didn’t cover the areas the burglars used to get in;
  • the motion sensors were faulty;
  • the alarm was turned off by mistake.

It’s not a huge number of people, but the consequences could be distressing if yours failed. So it’s important that your alarm is set up in the right way and that it’s maintained.

If you don’t have an alarm yet, get a few opinions and quotes from tradespeople/companies. If you’re installing your alarm yourself, think carefully about how many sensors you will need, and whether their position will mean all entry points to your home or rooms a burglar is likely to enter are covered.

Ideally you should have your alarm checked once a year to highlight and reduce defects. 35% of Which? members with a burglar alarm have their alarm maintained. You can set up a maintenance contract with the company when you buy the alarm, or an independent local security expert.

If you have a monitoring contract, you will have to get it maintained, often by the same company that does the monitoring, or someone they are affiliated with. If it’s a police contract, it’ll need to be serviced twice a year.

Costs for maintaining your alarm vary, particularly as you can get different levels of maintenance, such as additional free call-outs or parts included.

Our page on burglar alarm costs details what we found when we called a number of different installers for quotes, and shows you how you can potentially save nearly £400 on your alarm system and installation.

Burglar alarm being set

Five ways to protect your home

Getting a burglar alarm isn’t the only way you can protect your home – they are a number of cheaper and even free ways to do it.

1. Consider a dummy alarm

When we spoke to 100 ex-burglars about what they’re deterred by, 71% said that seeing an alarm system would put them off.

So, if you can’t afford a full burglar alarm, consider getting a dummy one to scare off intruders. These can be picked up for as little as £15.

Visit our page on burglar alarm secrets to find out more.

2. Install security lights and consider getting a security camera

Bright lights that are triggered by someone coming close to your property are very off-putting for burglars chancing it.

A security camera is potentially an even more potent deterrent as it could actually catch the thief in the act. But there are rules around how you use your camera, and there can be high costs attached to a system like this. Visit our page on home CCTV to find out more.

3. Make sure you have the right locks

On windows and doors, have visible key-operated locks, but ensure the key is out of sight. Make sure valuables are not in view either.

Easily accessible glass should be double glazed, and consider getting laminated or plastic glazing film, as these are harder to break.

Your external doors should be at least 4.4cm thick and hung with 10cm hinges. Doors should ideally be fitted with a five-lever mortise deadlock tested to BS 3621.

4. Don’t obscure your front door and other entrances

If your front door or easy-access points of entry are out of view, for example because of high bushes, it’ll be easier for a burglar to get into your home unnoticed.

Also think about adding plants or shrubs with thorns at the border of your property so that they’re not able to hide in them.

5. Burglar-proof your gardens

Driveways that create noise are a real deterrent, as are strong, high fences in your back garden. They should ideally be two metres high and with 30-45cm of open-ended trellising at the top – if they jump the fence and break this, it will be heard.

If you have valuable items in your garden, make sure they’re locked away securely.

Our page on home security gives you more detail on the ways you can make your home a better defense.

*In September 2017, we asked 4,353 Which? members about the security measures in their home. Of those, 3,412 people told us about their burglar alarm. For the brand ratings, 2,625 people answered for standalone alarms and 603 for monitored.

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