During lockdown, reports of theft and burglaries plummeted – halving year-on-year – as houses were no longer left unoccupied during the day and burglars were restricted by lockdown curfews at night.
Since these restrictions were lifted, however, rates are rising again. Despite the fact many of us are still working largely from home, the number of people out at work during the day and an increase in empty homes is having “consequences for individuals, communities and the impact on societal behaviour” – all of which are causing an increase in theft, according to Metropolitan Police chief superintendent Paul Griffiths.
“If there are challenges economically, there is sometimes a rise in crime and disorder,” he says. Data from Scotland Yard goes some way towards supporting this. Following record falls in offences such as burglary, theft and robbery in April, the total number of crimes recorded in May was up by more than 8,000. Burglary rose by six per cent in two months and continues to rise.
“Since the initial reduction in theft claims following lockdown, we’ve now seen home claims relating to burglaries increase by a third,” says Andrew Moore, home claims director at insurance firm More Than. In short, now is a good time to secure your home, your belongings and keep your family safe with the latest in smart home security tech and a few old fashioned tricks too.
Smart spotlights and CCTV
Protecting your home can come in many forms. “An onion-like layered approach to home protection provides an enhanced level of security whilst at the same time taking the surrounding area into consideration,” says Simon Giddins, managing director at Blackstone Consultancy.
“The layered approach means householders should work from the outside in to create the most secure environment possible,” he explains. “Your aim is to deter the criminal by making your home as inaccessible as possible; to impede access, ideally before the intruder reaches the house.” This is where driveway alarms and floodlights come in.
Ring Spotlight Cams and Floodlight Cams
Ring – the company behind the smart doorbell range – also sells Spotlight Cams which come with motion-activated spotlights, infrared night vision sensors and the ability to remotely activate a siren from your phone, to scare away potential intruders. These can be wired, run on batteries or powered by solar panels. Alternatively, you can pay an extra £50 to get Ring’s Floodlight Cam. This is a HD security camera with built-in floodlights, siren alarm and two-way talk. It uses its 270-degree field-of-view so you can detect motion around corners and monitor your blind spots.
EZVIZ LC1 Outdoor Floodlight Camera
An alternative to the Ring Floodlight Cam is the EZVIZ LC1 Outdoor Floodlight Cam. For £180, it will send notifications – and captured images – to an app whenever a person or object enters the sensors’ field 270-degree field of view. This detection area is customisable, up to 30ft (nine metres), and its night vision impressively doubles this range.
If you can hold off until October, EZVIZ is launching a more advanced outdoor security camera – the C3X. It uses dual lenses and dual infrared lights to capture high-quality colour images even in low light, but it’s its use of AI and deep learning that is due to really set it apart. Especially at this price point.
The C3X uses a built-in deep learning model to detect the motion of people and vehicle shapes in real-time. This means you get more precise motion alerts, with a lower risk of false alarms. You can even record your own voice for customised greetings or deterrence. For example, if someone parks where they shouldn’t, the C3X will play a pre-recorded message telling them to move along.
Price: £149 | Ezviz
Swann Enforcer CCTV
At the higher end of the price spectrum is Swann’s motion-activated Enforcer CCTV kit. Available from £280 (for two cameras) up to £500 (for six), each camera records in 4K Ultra HD, comes with colour night vision, and the Enforcer range’s True Detect Heat and Motion technology helps reduce the number of false alarms. By only picking up motion and the unique heat signature of people, rather than rain, leaves blowing in the wind or even pets, you’re only likely to be disturbed when there’s a real threat. An extra feature, which seems slightly gimmicky, is that the Enforcer will flash red and blue lights when an intruder comes near. The extra money you pay for this kit adds on a 1TB HDD where your recordings are stored, locally and securely without relying on the cloud. And it works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Price: £280 | Swann
Driveway alarms typically come with motion sensors that alert homeowners when people come within a certain distance of their property or outside buildings. In addition to driveways, they can be placed in gardens, in garages and so on.
Guardline Wireless Driveway Alarm
Guardline is a well regarded American security firm but its systems and sensors are sold in the UK via Amazon. This wireless driveway alarm costs £150 but for the extra money, compared to Swann’s kit, you can set zones for each sensor and choose from 30 different adjustable ringer options and LED settings for each one. This kit runs on batteries for up to a year, or can be plugged in, and the detection range for the sensors is 12 metres, while the range between the sensor and receiver is up to 150 metres.
Price: £150 | Amazon
Swann Home Doorway Alert Kit
This DIY wireless alert kit from Swann comes with two motion sensors that send an alert to the receiver and either an audible alarm rings out, or LEDs start flashing. The sensors detect motion up to 40ft (12 metres) away and they can be positioned up to 200ft (60 metres) from the receiver. Given its affordable price, this isn’t the most sophisticated piece of kit and you may get some false positives from pets and so on, but it’s a good deterrent at least.
Smart doorbells are able to not only capture people approaching your front door, or coming within a certain distance of the front of your house when peering through windows, they’re also useful for capturing people scoping out your neighbours’ property. If a break-in happens in your street, the idea is that you can all share your smart doorbell footage with each other and the police, effectively creating a crude CCTV network. (Whether you’ll want to encourage this type of surveillance, is another question).
Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
A second mention for Ring, here, but a home security guide wouldn’t be complete with the mention of smart doorbells – and Ring leads the pack. Available in six formats, depending on whether you want it wired to your existing doorbell or wireless; and whether you need HD footage or a simple peephole camera, the best all-rounder is the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus.
The Doorbell 3 Plus is battery-powered, making it ideal for both rented accommodation and homeowners, and comes with the features found in cheaper models – two-way talk, live video capture, stills, notifications – plus improved motion detection. The latter, Near Motion Zone feature and Pre-Roll technology means that you get an additional four-second video preview of each motion event. This means the doorbell will automatically start recording before you even get a notification.
Yale All-in-One Camera
Although this is technically a security camera at its core, the fact it offers two-way talk means the Yale All-in-One Camera doubles up as an intercom system. Not to mention it has a spotlight and motion detection built in, and a siren alarm. When paired with the smartphone app, you can view your front door from anywhere and, because the camera is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, you can ask your voice assistant to see live footage.
Gira Home Studio 7
If you have the budget, or the need, to take things to the next level, one of the most advanced intercom systems for homes is made by German firm Gira. Called the Gira Home Station Video AP 7, the system consists of either a wall-mounted, or freestanding, seven-inch video display that pairs with a security camera positioned above your front door. Not only can you see who is at the door, but you can talk to them and open the door remotely (if you have a compatible smart lock). If you aren’t home, the camera footage is stored in the system’s internal memory, which can hold up to 200 recordings, so you’ll always know who has paid you a visit, even if you weren’t there.
Price: £600 | Gira
Smart locks and secure door handles
Beyond video doorbells and app-controlled locks, a number of companies have taken the concept a step further with built-in fingerprint readers and more hardy lock mechanisms.
“Normal locking systems give no protection whatsoever from the most common form of break-in method – lock snapping,” says Nick Dutton from Brisant Secure. “This is the most common method of entry because it is incredibly quiet and can have the door opened in less than ten seconds.”
What’s more, as Izzy Schulman, director at Keys 4 U, explains: “While you may picture burglars as criminal masterminds, the reality is over a quarter of UK burglaries are a result of simply forcing entry. It takes just seconds for someone to kick your front door open if the right precautions aren’t in place.”
ENER-J Smart Wi-Fi door handle
The ENER-J Smart Wi-Fi door handle offers five different ways to get into your house – approved guests and family members can use their fingerprint (the handle stores up to 100 prints securely); user PIN; RFID card; the ENERJSMART app or a key. The app shows you a log of everytime the door has been opened – and whose fingerprint, RFID card or password was used – and it’s even possible to protect your PIN by putting a random mix of numbers before and after the correct combination. The door will still unlock, but any Peeping Toms will be none the wiser.
ENER-J additionally sells a cheaper fingerprint and Bluetooth padlock for bikes, sheds, tool boxes and anything else that’s stored outside that you want to protect. This padlock identifies 15 fingerprints or can be accessed via QR code.
Price: £180 | The Range
An alternative, somewhat more discreet and stylish smart door handle is the Ultion Smart. It’s voice-controlled, works with Amazon Alexa and Siri through Apple HomeKit, and you can unlock via a Bluetooth app. It additionally offers wireless keypad PIN access, or can be used with a traditional key. Guests can be given time-limited electronic keys and there is no complicated installation required. Inside, it conceals “attack rods” that engage when the lock detects an attack or blunt force, to avoid lock snapping. Brisant Secure is so confident in the lock, it comes with a £1,000 guarantee.
Windows and French Doors
From your front door, to the rear, you can also buy gadgets to protect your French doors, windows and conservatories from intruders.
“If a criminal does decide to approach your house, fixing doors and windows which are capable of resisting attack until police arrive will not only keep the intruder outside, but the difficulty of breaking in is likely to mean they will simply give up as the challenge is too great,” says Sam Giddings. “If outer measures failed to deter them on first sight, the objective is now to impede his progress.”
More Than’s Moore adds that doors and windows are the most common points of entry so ensuring they’re fitted with locks that “carry the British Standard kitemark and a 5-lever mortice stamp” can help.
Reminiscent of the type of Stoplock you’d fit onto a car steering wheel, Patlock is a bar that you fit to the handles of your French doors and on conservatory doors. It acts as both a visual deterrent but also stops the external handles from being used; keeping the door mechanism in a locked position, even if the locks are snapped or removed.
Neos Smart Motion Kit
Beyond your doors, the Neos Smart Motion Kit comes with contact sensors you can place on your windows – or a cat flap, or even a biscuit tin – that sync with the Neos SmartCam. When motion is detected, the sensors send alerts to the Neo smartphone app and you can keep an eye on your family’s comings and goings, as well as protect your home (or biscuits) from thieves. You do need to buy the Neos SmartCam (£30) separately but this still makes the set up cheaper than some of the all-in-one motion detection kits.
Price: £36 | Amazon
Continuing his onion analogy, Giddings says: “The last internal layer protects the family and most valuable possessions. If the criminal does breach your defences, then the third objective is to detect, hence the use of equipment such as IDS and CCTV enabling the homeowner’s security partners to identify the intruder’s location as well as obtaining evidence.”
Of course, if you don’t want the hassle of setting up many different sensors, cameras and gadgets and want something more far-reaching, your best bet is an all-in-one smart home security system. The majority of these systems take many of the individual technologies mentioned above and package them up. Some kits consist of a single camera, sensor and an app, while others come with 24/7 monitoring, local harddrives to store CCTV footage, sirens, motion detectors, door locks and more. Obviously, the more you’re willing to pay, the more tech you get. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, though.
Securikey Mini Vault Silver Safe
A safe may not be an obvious home security essential but if you want extra peace of mind, you don’t need to spend thousands to get a vault. This home safe is similar to the kind you get in hotels and has a combination lock powered by AA batteries. It’s secured with an 8mm anti-bludgeon flush-fit door, which has 25mm hardened steel locking bolts. You can even mount this safe on the wall to stop it being stolen.
Price: £256 | Amazon
Yale Smart Living Alarm Systems
It is possible to buy smaller kits containing a combination of Yale sensors and alarm panels but the most cost-effective way to get a full smart security system is through this Wireless Family Kit. It comes with a smart hub, siren, a dummy siren box you attach to the outside of your home, motion detector (that we installed in our hallway), an image camera plus a keypad. Buying this kit means that all the compartments work in tandem, and there is very little setup required. The box alone may be enough to deter burglars but should they get into your home, the motion detector will trip the alarm and alert you before they can get upstairs or find your valuables.
Simplisafe Bamburgh Kit
An alternative system that works in a similar way to Yale’s kit – but is more stylish and therefore more expensive – is the Simplisafe Bamburgh kit. There are various combinations of Simplisafe products you can build to create your perfect pack but the Bamburgh Kit is a good place to start. This kit comes with the Simplisafe SimpliCam and siren, a panic button, a mixture of entry sensors, glassbreak sensors and key fobs. You can also pay for monitoring, which offers video verification that confirms a break-in or fire in real time. Plus, police dispatch and 24/7 alerts.
Price: £504 with monitoring/£377 without | Simplisafe
Made To Last concealment furniture
A slight outlier in terms of safety and home security, but one that may be so out there it works perfectly is concealment furniture. Developed by a company called Made To Last, each piece of furniture is handmade and each one comes with a hidden compartment. This includes coffee tables with hidden drawers and bedside cabinets with secret back panels. If you don’t want to get a safe – or a safe is too obvious – hiding your valuables inside furniture could be foolproof.
Price: From £600 | Made To Last
Smart home devices
When considering your home security, this should also extend to smart home devices. “With IoT devices creating more access points throughout smart homes, hackers are faced with more vulnerabilities to explore,” says Jesús Sanchez-Aguilera Garcia, head of EMEA consumer at security firm McAfee. “Just like windows and doors throughout a home, the more a home has, the more access points there are for burglars to break into, and the more points of entry there are to be locked before leaving the house.”
It’s one thing for criminals to use these devices to hack into your network but, as Sanchez-Aguilera Garcia explains, vulnerabilities in smart home gadgets can also be used for physical break-ins. Once into your system, hackers could potentially monitor daily habits and use this information to target homes and those living within them. Hacking into an unsecured CCTV camera could also allow a hacker to see who is home, or they could block an alarm siren signal.
You should be actively keeping all the software on your smart home devices up-to-date and password protected but if you want an extra layer of security, the Hedgehog is a so-called whole home cybersecurity device. It works alongside your households’ existing firewalls, anti-virus software and other security products, and shields all of the devices and networks within your home. This includes smart speakers, webcams, baby monitors, tablets, smart TVs and more. “Many people think anti-virus software or firewalls stop cybercrime, but they only protect PCs,” says Scott Lever, founder of Hedgehog. “We have so many connected devices in the home from nanny cams to smart fridges, digital doorbells and games consoles, that people don’t consider are all potential targets.”
Price: £199 plus monthly subscription from £3.99 | Hedgehog
Last year, 92 per cent of stolen vehicles were stolen via Keyless Entry theft methods in which thieves use a laptop, or similar, to copy the signal from a key and use it to steal a car. It’s therefore important to keep your keys in an RFID wallet or box, and use deterrents such as steering locks and dash cams. As Bryn Brooker, marketing director at Nextbase, points out, after our homes, the car is often “our second most expensive possession.”
Nextbase 622GW Dash Cam
You may think dash cams are only useful for recording your drive, or working out who is at fault following an accident, but they can also double as in-car CCTV systems if they have a surveillance mode. The 622GW from Nextbase, for example, comes with an Intelligent Parking Mode. This effectively turns the dash cam into a security camera for your car when it is stationary. Should anyone or anything knock into your vehicle whilst it is parked outside, the camera will turn itself on and start recording. A dash cam could also act as a deterrent for house burglars, says Nextbase’s Bryn Brooker, suggesting further non-visible security measures around the house.
Price: £250 | Nextbase
MONOJOY Faraday Box
RFID wallets and Faraday boxes effectively do the same job. They use metal to block signals from keys being intercepted by thieves. They come in various shapes and sizes but this one from MONOJOY combines style and value for money.
Price: £19 | Amazon
Failing all of that, ATG Access sells fixed and automatic driveway bollards, which are approved by insurance companies Aviva, Allianz and Axa insurance. The hydraulic ones – which cost in the region of £2,500 – are operated via a smart control system and take seven seconds to raise or lower via an app. You can also buy fixed bollards that you raise and lower manually.
Price: £280 | ATG Access