According to the Office for National Statistics 61% of burglaries between 2017 and 2018 occurred during the evening or night time. 57% of houses used lighting with timers or sensors.
Do Outside Lights Deter Burglars?
Lighting is one of the most effective ways to deter burglars.
Michael Fraser, a reformed burglar, rates the use of security lights as number two in his top five security measures. Lighting can be one of the most cost-effective security measures for your home security. However, it’s not just a case of putting up a few lights, putting away your ladder and heading for the pub while you hope your TV will be just where you left it. In fact, it’s been established that badly applied lighting strategies can actually increase the vulnerability of a property.
Deep in the recesses of our mammalian brain lurks the fear of the dark. The answer to resolving this fear is the hope that flood lighting will eliminate the potential dangers of things that go bump in the night. However, continuous floodlighting has proved to be an ineffective security solution and a source of light pollution. In some studies, it was found that outdoor crime actually increased in brightly lit areas. Correspondingly, studies in the USA and New Zealand showed that there was no direct increase in crime when public space lighting failed or was removed.
Lighting can be one of the best deterrents for burglars. For it to be effective a little bit of strategy goes a long way. Let’s look at security lighting in a little more detail:
Lighting as a Crime Deterrent
- Start your planning by using the adversarial mindset: If you were a burglar, what path would you use to approach your house? In 75% of the incidents mentioned above, thieves forced open a door of the home. You need to consider your home as a 360° area. Cover the routes of access and security critical areas with your lighting plan. Consider your front and back door, driveways, perimeter areas, the sides of the house and walkways.
- Use motion activated lighting: Motion activated lighting is an effective security deterrent because if functions as a call to action. When a light turns on, so should your sense of vigilance. Place your lighting in positions that will highlight the path of an intruder. It is important to purchase a system that allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor. Once your light is up, step out into the night and test the light. You want to reduce the sensitivity of the light activation as much as possible to decrease false activations. For example, do not place the light in front of bushes and tree branches that will activate the light as they wave in the wind.
- Augment your outdoor alarm system with lighting: Motion sensitive lighting can enhance an alarm system that is equipped with outdoor passive detectors. Place your lighting in a position that will allow it to illuminate the area the alarm is monitoring. Again, it’s a call to action. If your alarm activates, move to a safe position at a window and monitor what has activated the alarm.
- Purchase lights that have shields to eliminate glare: As a rule, people from the international space station don’t need to know where you live. You only want the light to illuminate the security sensitive area. Angle the light so that it gives you maximum security value and reduces light pollution. Its also important to eliminate glare that will blind you. You want to comfortably glance at an area and easily see movement.
- Mount your lights at the correct height: Powerful lighting that is mounted too high can create severe shadows. Conversely, lighting that is mounted too low reduces the area of coverage. You are aiming to illuminate the area with a shadow free soft glow. Depending on the area, ideal light height varies from 6 to 10 feet above the ground (that’s 1.8 to 3 meters for metric readers that have left the imperial stone age).
- Protect your lighting system: Lights can come under attack from criminals and from the elements. Place your cabling in plastic conduit where long areas of cabling are needed. Place junctions and power sources in sealed boxes that are out of reach and waterproof.
- Go green with your lighting: Motion sensitive lights are already a step to save electricity. Nowadays it’s also possible to get a range of quality LED and solar powered external lights. LED systems draw less power, last longer and can create an ideal white light that is needed for security. Solar systems keep you secure even when the power grid is down, and eliminate the need to run long reels of cable to your perimeter areas. Remember to position the solar cell in a place where it will get sufficient light to charge during the day.
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