The history and future of home security

Posted 16 December 2016 by Ben Salisbury

With Christmas coming homeowners need to check their homes are secure, and, as this feature shows, many ancient features are still used today

With families’ busy buying, wrapping and storing Christmas presents in time for the big day, home security in the run-up to Christmas is even more important.

For most Britons, their home is their safe place. It’s a place to come back to after a day at work, to raise a family in and to relax in.

But how safe is it, really?

The number of burglaries in the UK is falling. Incidents in 2016 were down 3% compared to 2015.  Burglaries were down 32% compared to 10 years earlier (Jan-Dec 2005) and 71% compared to 20 years ago (Jan-Dec 1995).

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 400,361 police-reported burglaries between April 2015 and March 2016 – giving a burglary rate of 7 offences per 1,000 people.

This still means 1,100 burglaries per day were reported to the police. That’s 45 per hour!

The figure gets even scarier when you take in to account an estimate of all burglaries (aside from police-reported), 701,000 burglaries. This means an estimated 1,920 burglaries per day or 80 per hour or1.33 each minute.

In 2000, a Home Office study concluded that the average burglary costs £2,300 per incident. Adjusted for inflation, that figure is now £3,600. That’s not even counting the rise in new items that are stolen such as smartphones, costing on average £180 each, and laptops at an average cost of £692.

How safe is your area?

According to MoneySuperMarket, London is the UK’s most burglary prone area. In fact, the ten areas with the highest rate of burglary in the UK are in our capital:

Most burgled postcodes

SE21 South Tulse Hill & Dulwich, South London 61.2

IG5 Clayhall, Ilford, East London 57.5

IG4 Redbridge, East London 56.7

IG2 Gants Hill, Newbury Park, Aldborough Hatch, East London 53.5

N20 Whetstone district, North London 49.5

TW5 Heston, Cranford (north), Osterley (west), West London 49.2

EN4 Hadley Wood, Cockfosters, East Barnet, New Barnet, North London 48.6

N11 New Southgate district, North London 48.1

TW11 Teddington, West London 46.6

If you live in Harbury, Derry or Bishopston, it’s good news — you’re living in some of the UK’s safest areas.

Safest postcodes

CV33 Harbury 0.7
BT48 Derry, Cityside, Ballynagard, Coshquin, Rosemount, The Collon, Culmore, 0.9
SA3 Bishopston, Blackpill, Caswell, Clyne, Langland, Mumbles, Oystermouth, Southgate, South Gower, West Cross, 1.1
SO22 Badger Farm, Fulflood, Hursley, Littleton and Harestock, Olivers Battery, Pitt, St Cross (W), Stanmore, Weeke 1.1
SP4 Amesbury & Durrington 1.2
BL6 Bolton, Blackrod, Horwich, Lostock, Rivington 1.3
OX10 Wallingford, Berinsfield, Cholsey, Dorchester 1.3
DD10 Montrose 1.4
NG20 Shirebrook, Market Warsop 1.4
CA13 Cockermouth, Lorton & Buttermere 1.5

Securing your home – a brief history

Throughout history, people have tried to secure their homes to prevent theft. This started with the use of weapons and tools before morphing into the systems we use today.

Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt

Beginning with a simple wooden bolt across two brackets, locks in ancient history progressed rapidly. In periods dating as far back as 2,000BC, Egyptians began using pin tumbler locks made of wood that used a lock and key to provide access externally. This was improved with metallic tumbler locks in Rome.

Effective now? Deadbolts and secure locks are still one of the most important factors in protecting your home against burglary. Around 30% of all burglaries are through an open or unlocked window or door. A home without a security system is 300% more likely to be burgled.

Ancient Rome – Guard Dogs

Domesticated since ancient times, guard dogs were used in ancient Rome to protect property. In his writings about breeds such as Laconians and Molossians, Virgil the poet said: “Never, with them on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief.”

Effective now? A study by the University of North Carolina surveyed 422 burglars to establish what put them off burgling a property. Only a small percentage of the offenders said they’d continue a burglary if there was a dog in the home.

Confusingly, the current UK legislation through the Dangerous Dogs Act means that you can be prosecuted if your dog bites a trespasser in your garden – but there is a defence if your dog bites a trespasser inside your home.

Medieval Period – Castles

A castle was a fortified holding of a lord, popular throughout Europe as a direct response to the increase of raids and invasions. They consisted of a number of defence mechanisms, such as:

  • Moats – Deep ditches that provided a preliminary line of defence.
  • Drawbridge – An enormous gate which would only be lowered internally.
  • Fortified walls – with sloped, enormous stone walls, castles were almost impossible to climb.
  • Arrow slits and murder holes – areas for defenders to attack with impunity.

Effective now? Most of us aren’t rich enough to afford a castle, or the multitude of guards you’d need to defend it. However, making your home hard to climb by removing bins near your garage and locking your windows is effective.

Modern security systems – Alarms and CCTV

Modern security systems came into being in the mid 1800’s, when the first electro-magnetic alarm system was created by Augustus Pope in 1853. The rights were purchased in 1857 by Edwin Holmes, who set up the first electrical alarm system company.

Despite George Orwell’s warnings in his novel 1984, CCTV systems have caught on after being invented as a live monitoring solution for Germany’s V-2 rockets in 1942, then being promoted by American contractors Vericon in 1949. Home CCTV was invented by Nurse Marie Van Brittan Brown in 1966.

What’s effective in the modern age?

As well as being inspired by history, our new security systems are proving very effective at repelling burglars. Ultimately, these new technologies combined with older ones give us an idea of how to deter burglary.

  • Alarms are a big deterrent in the U.S, with around 60% of burglars surveyed by the University of North Carolina admitting they avoid houses with alarms in place. However, one in five burglars (20%) reported cutting alarm wires before a burglary.
  • Locking up is vital. Traditional methods of home security are the single most important aspect. Window locks, indoor lights on a timer, double door locks and external motion sensor lights were found to make a home almost 50x safer than a home without security – according to a study by the Royal Statistical Society. Fitting a stronger door can be useful, as 33% of intruders enter through the front door – either by forcing the lock or kicking it in.
  • CCTV is also very useful, offering a deterrent in a similar fashion to alarms. Research by the University of Leicester found that CCTV use in Newcastle and King’s Lynn reduced recorded crime in the burglary and vehicle crime areas. However, it’s a more expensive system than most and this is reflected by the low uptake. Just 5% of the 1,292 Which? members surveyed by the website in a home security survey had home CCTV systems.

To defend your home, a combination of systems and common sense can prevent crime. With the right methods in place, you’ll be able to deter potential burglars. Take cues from history and install strong locks, lighting and experiment with guard systems such as alarms.

The future?

CCTV is still a relatively recent technology, but it has already been challenged by personal CCTV systems available to smartphone and tablet owners. A report by futurologist Dr Ian Pearson suggested that we may soon see intelligent alarms that can communicate with one another, directional sound emitting alarms that disorientate intruders and even affordable robotic security guards. With the price of technology dropping and home CCTV systems now available for free through Android apps, the future looks bright.

Find out more about how to keep your home safe at IronmongeryDirect


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