Easing lockdown restrictions could be linked to an increase in criminality in the UK. Here’s how you can keep your home safe
The past eighteen months have stretched our finances and mental health to the limit, and this could make UK streets considerably less safe.
According to research from the London School of Economics and Political Science, almost all types of crime fell during the pandemic, but after lockdown restrictions were eased, the crime rate quickly skyrocketed, exceeding pre-COVID levels. Between June and September 2020, crime levels started to rise, favoured by a combination of poverty and poor mental health. After a decrease between March and May, when most people were at home, the number of reported burglaries increased between May and July. In 2020, over 348,000 UK households were targets of domestic burglary.
According to Tom Kirchmaier, Director of the Policing and Crime research group at CEP, the trend was more pronounced in economically deprived areas of England and Wales, which were already under pressure before the pandemic. Then, once the pandemic struck, and many families found themselves without a stable source of income and struggling with mental health challenges such as stress, anxiety, and depression, it was only a matter of time until crime levels would increase.
In an interview on the Sky News podcast, Birmingham-based criminologist Craig Pinkney said that easing lockdown restrictions had an elastic-band effect, but the root causes run deeper than that. The pandemic has caused some of the lowest mental health levels in the UK’s history, which, combined with growing poverty rates, created the perfect storm of risk factors for rising criminality. There is also a wave of social unrest, and it’s essential for authorities to understand the underlying causes behind this phenomenon in order to tackle it.
The Metropolitan Police has recently revealed that London is on track to have the worst year of teenage killings since 2008 and that, so far, 17 teenagers have been killed in London this year. In June 2021, the head of Scotland Yard’s violent crime task force also said that he fears a rise in violence due to pent-up aggression. What’s more, the night-time economy would resume, so Scotland Yard expects alcohol-fuelled fights to be predominant in nightclubs.
Knife crime isn’t the only risk. Some forms of home robberies also increased during the pandemic. For example, “porch pirates” were an odd new phenomenon that puzzled hundreds of families. Due to the sharp increase in online shopping and home deliveries, some people took advantage of social distancing guidelines and stole packages from porches. In just six months, nearly 8,000 packages were stolen from Surrey doorsteps, making homeowners question their security.
How to keep your property safe
Even if you live in a safe neighbourhood, it’s important to take safety precautions and protect your home. In the event of a crime, the police may attempt to catch the thief and recover your possessions, but there aren’t any guarantees. Many homeowners imagine that securing a property is difficult or expensive, but the truth is that you can boost security considerably just by avoiding a few common mistakes. As for home security equipment, that may require an initial investment, but that investment is totally worth it, considering the peace of mind that it gives you.
Forget about the spare key hidden under the flower pot.
If you still keep a spare key under the entry mat or flower pot, you’re taking a great risk. No matter how creative you think you were when choosing the hiding spot, experienced thieves may be able to find it within minutes, so it’s best not to take chances. Instead, have a spare key copy for every family member and an extra one for a friend who lives nearby. This way, you can quickly enter the house in case you forget yours.
Install a CCTV system
According to the experts at 247cctv.co.uk, installing a home security system is one of the best ways to keep burglars at bay. Keep in mind that most thieves are looking for easy targets and, if they see a security camera on a property, they’ll avoid it. Even in rare cases that they do decide to take action, the footage can be used to identify and locate the culprit. Although the UK is one of the countries with the most security cameras, there isn’t a CCTV system on every street, so it pays off to install your own.
Never reveal your whereabouts.
Are you excited to finally leave your home and have your first overnight stay since the lockdown? That’s completely understandable, but you might not want to let all of social media know about it because you never know who might take advantage of your absence. If you’re new to the neighbourhood and don’t know whom to trust yet, letting them know isn’t a good idea either.
Protect your home while you’re away
Even if you’re away, you can still protect your home. For example, you can install a motion-activated light, which is enough to make most burglars give up. If you have smart lights, you can turn them on remotely, which will give people the impression that there’s someone home. CCTVs are also useful because you can easily check on your property while you’re away.
Don’t keep your valuables on display.
Rising poverty rates are one of the main driving factors behind home robberies, and now is not a good time to show off your latest expensive purchase. If you have an expensive car, it’s best to keep it under lock and key in the garage. If you have a brand-new home cinema, pull the curtains at night. If you’ve recently bought something expensive, such as a gaming console, don’t leave the box outside. According to recent data, most home burglaries aren’t premeditated, and thieves pick the target on the spot, usually after seeing something of value. According to police data, the most common items stolen from homes during the burglary are jewellery (36%), purses/wallets (29%), TVs (22%), and laptops (20%), so these are the ones you should be most careful with.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.