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Ex-burglars reveal the best places in your home to hide your valuables  

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

People heading off on holiday should hide their valuables in cereal boxes, packets of pasta and children’s toy boxes, according to a group of former burglars.

The ex-offenders said many people unsuccessfully try to hide their valuables in living room drawers and dressers, pots and pans and locked safes which are not secured to the floor or wall.

But they advise hiding anything of value in children’s bedrooms – which many burglars rule a no-go area – and under sofas.

A third of those questioned said they would target identity documents during a break-in – including passports, driving licences, credit card and bank statements because of ‘the value associated with them’.

However, one former offender revealed they never entered children’s bedrooms or playrooms when they broke into homes, calling it an ‘unwritten rule’.

The research was carried out by John Lewis Home Insurance via surveys and interviews with the help of St Giles Trust, which put the insurer in touch with six reformed former offenders with convictions for burglary.

Parcel deliveries left on doorsteps are one of the biggest clues that someone is on holiday, the survey revealed.

Letters and leaflets sticking out of letterboxes and on doormats were seen as the biggest giveaway that someone was away – even more so than leaving lights on, curtains closed, or having no car on the driveway.

The best room in the house to leave lights on when you go away is the hallway, half of those questioned revealed – but timer switches were deemed the best option because it creates a better illusion that someone is at home.

Using security cameras – including smart doorbells with cameras controlled from your phone – was viewed as the best deterrent, even beating burglar alarms.

The research revealed that burglars can spend up to two months watching a house before burgling it – but would spend as little as five minutes inside before fleeing.

One ex-burglar said they targeted homes between 4pm to 5pm during the ‘school run’ when many houses were empty, while others chose night time, with one saying they chose 3am when most people were asleep.

Dr Claire Nee, director of the international centre for research in forensic psychology at Portsmouth University, has interviewed hundreds of burglars to analyse patterns in offending.

She said: “Identity documents are very valuable at the minute due to identity theft for fraud and people trafficking.

“We also know from both our research and criminal statistics that burglars are going for small, valuable items – jewellery, electronics and cash.

“Finally, be careful about your conversation on the way to the airport. Talk loudly about your house sitter for instance, not about how you are looking forward to your fortnight away.”

Top tips for securing your home this summer

  1. Keep curtains and blinds open but move expensive items out of view
  2. Set up smart home security such as doorbells with cameras so you can monitor your property even while you’re away
  3. Use an alarm system – some even link directly to security firms
  4. Use timer switches on indoor and outdoor lights to ensure your home looks occupied
  5. Ask a friend to move your post or use the Royal Mail Keepsafe service
  6. Don’t advertise your departure on social media, your voicemail message or out-of-office email
  7. Lock up your valuables using a secure well-hidden safe
  8. Label your luggage – but do not put your landline phone number or address on it
  9. Inform your neighbours you are going away so they can keep an eye on your property
  10. Check your insurance policy to confirm what you’re covered for – especially if you’re away for more than 60 days