Do you know what your rights are to protect yourselves and your family against an intruder?
Convicted burglars have spoken out about some of the tricks of the trade to help homeowners protect themselves from becoming a break-in victim.
Eighty-six per cent of thieves do all they can to avoid bumping into the occupant, with three-quarters abandoning a robbery attempt altogether because they had heard someone in the house or returning home.
And night-time burglars – termed ‘creepers’ – admit they would hide to avoid discovery.
The thieves also wear cheap trainers which they can dispose of after their crimes, always wear gloves or socks on their hands to avoid leaving fingerprints and don a hat to disguise themselves.
The insight comes as new research from Churchill Home Insurance reveals members of the public don’t know their rights when it comes to protecting their homes.
Less than half of Brits understand there is a legal definition of reasonable force, meaning millions of people don’t know how assertive they can be when protecting themselves or other occupants if they encounter an intruder in their home.
And more than one in eight said they didn’t think there are any laws addressing their right to protect themselves or their family against an intruder.
This is despite the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) being very specific in their guidance regarding the use of force against intruders.
While highlighting that wherever possible, householders should call the police, the CPS state “anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime”.
However, the level of force used must always be reasonable in the circumstances the householder believes them to be.
Martin Scott, head of Churchill home insurance said: “Most burglars target properties they believe to be unoccupied, meaning encounters are rare.
“If someone thinks there is a burglar in their home or trying to break in, their first course of action should always be to contact the police if it is safe to do so and to avoid confrontation.
“If householders are forced into a confrontation with an intruder, they are legally permitted to protect themselves as a last resort.”
Some five per cent Brits mistakenly believe they are legally allowed to set traps in their home to harm potential intruders.
While booby traps were made famous in the movie Home Alone, if a householder’s trap was to harm a burglar or intruder they could be prosecuted for acting with very excessive and gratuitous force.
Awareness amongst burglars of the laws increasing householders’ rights, which came into force in 2013, to protect their property is mixed.
Around half of burglars know of occupants’ increased rights to protect property, however, two thirds said this change had made little difference to the way they approached burglary as they were very careful not to meet their victims in any case.
A fifth of burglars said that the change in the law had made them undergo additional occupancy checks to ensure they didn’t meet the householder and risk confrontation.
The research also shows the lengths burglars will go to try and avoid detection.
Two fifths of burglars wear cheap trainers when committing crimes, disposing of them after their thefts, to avoid leaving traceable marks at the scene.
Over three quarters of these criminals wear gloves, or even socks, on their hands to avoid leaving finger prints.
One in five burglars uses a hat to cover their hair to disguise themselves when committing a crime.
However, despite shows such as CSI highlighting the use of scientific markers to track criminals, burglars appear largely unconcerned about leaving DNA at a crime scene.
Only 14 per cent of burglars interviewed reported higher levels of care or awareness regarding leaving DNA evidence at the scene of a crime, such as not leaving cigarette butts, wiping away any sweat, or wearing latex gloves under normal gloves.
Martin Scott added: “Burglars will usually target properties which look unoccupied and provide an easy entry and exit point, so that they can get away undetected.
“The chances of meeting a burglar are very slim but we urge householders to follow some simple steps to make burglars avoid their home.
“Making the property look occupied, having locks on doors and windows, remembering to lock all access points including garages and sheds and removing valuables from sight are all basic measures to help prevent burglary.”
Recognising that burglary can be an extremely traumatic event and leave people feeling like they and their home are vulnerable, Churchill Home Insurance is highlighting its 24/7 burglary response offering.
The service means, day or night, Churchill’s burglary response team is available to make the property safe after it has been broken into.
Following a break in, Churchill will send an engineer to replace all damaged locks with a British standard lock and temporarily secure damaged windows and doors.