Dulwich has seen an unprecedented number of residential burglaries over the last few months, so here are a few garden-related tips that could help ensure that you are not the next victim.

Fences and access

Perimeter walls and fences are the first line of defence against burglars. To have maximum effect:

  • Ensure that all perimeter fences are in good condition.
  • Rear and side fences (most burglars enter through the back garden) should be 1.8m (6 ft) high with 30-45cm (12-18in) of trellis, which make the fence more difficult and noisy to get over; they also generally make fences look more attractive
  • Grow thorny climbing or rambling roses on fences or through their trellises
  • Rubber spikes (such as Prikka-Strip) on top can make walls and fences more difficult to climb over
  • Don’t leave things next to fences that make it easy to climb over, such as chairs, benches or bins (chain these together).

Front walls/fences/hedges should be 1 metre or less high, so that a burglar can be seen from the street. You should also try to eliminate areas where an intruder could hide or set to work without fear of disturbance. Thorny shrubs at the base of fences and walls, and below windows and drainpipes, make them more difficult to access.

Hedges

Prickly plants and shrubs, and thick growth, can also help deter criminals. Here are a few suggestions for plants that can make a medium-large hedge 0.8-1.8m (3-6 ft):

  • Pyracantha (firethorn) - fast-growing evergreen bush with vicious thorns on its branches, can form an impenetrable barrier; white flowers in May-June followed by red, orange or yellow berries in the autumn; can be fence or wall-trained; grows 2-4m high; looks attractive
  • Blackthorn (prunus spinosa) - forms an impenetrable thorny hedge; fast growing; white flowers in the Spring and sloes in the autumn; good for wildlife and makers of sloe gin
  • Hawthorn (crataegus monogyna) - like blackthorn; fragrant cream-coloured flowers in the Spring and red haws in the autumn
  • Berberis - prickly evergreen shrub, yellow flowers in the Spring. Berberis stenophylla is a good variety
  • Holly (ilex aquifolium) - slow-growing green or variegated evergreen with thorns on its leaves; creamy white flowers in the spring and red berries in the autumn; good for wildlife
  • Rosa ugosa rubra - prickly-stemmed with strongly-veined leaves and fragrant single flowers in the summer, followed by large scarlet hips and yellow leaves in the autumn; prefers full sun
  • Rosa spinosisssima - prickly-stemmed with neat foliage and single creamy-white flowers in early summer, followed by black hips.

Gates and sheds

  • Fit sturdy locks to all garden gates and doors, at top and bottom; secure with clutch head or coach screws (to stop them being unscrewed)
  • Have heavy duty locks on shed doors, one-third of the way from top and bottom (sheds are a great source of tools for the intruder); use clutch head or coach screws on hinges and bolts
  • Mark your property with your house number and postcode (paint, scratch, engrave or use SmartWater)
  • Secure windows with appropriate locks and expanded/security mesh
  • Chain and padlock machinery together, or bolt them to concrete shed floors
  • Consider fitting an alarm system or an alarmed padlock.

Plants, garden furniture, ornaments and containers

  • Get big, heavy planters that are difficult to move
  • Chain or bolt these to a land anchor - for containers, a chain can be run through the drainage holes to the fixing point
  • Mark your property with your house number and postcode (paint, scratch, engrave or use SmartWater)
  • Secure hanging baskets with lockable brackets
  • Keep valuable ornaments, barbecues and furniture out of sight, with garden items preferably inside your property when not being used.

Burglar alarms, CCTV and lighting

  • Make sure that alarms are obvious, front and back
  • Place stickers on your windows stating that the house is alarmed, SmartWatered etc
  • Install automatically-triggered outside security lighting
  • Low energy lighting can also deter intruders.
  • Consider a CCTV system that you can watch from your mobile.

Drives and pathways

  • Gravel drives and paths create noise when an intruder approaches.

Marking and recording property

  • Garden machinery and tools with unique serial numbers can be registered free at www.immobilise.com
  • SmartWater can be used to mark property with a unique traceable “fingerprint”. Kits are still available free of charge for many Dulwich residents - email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request a kit and explanatory visit or contact your local police Safer Neighbourhoods team.

Managing your property

  • If you plan to be away, long grass, weeds, junk mail, papers and no car in the driveway are obvious giveaways - arrange for these to be dealt with
  • Asking neighbours to open and close blinds or curtains, and having lights/radios on timers, can also help.

Emergency numbers

  • Emergency/burglary in progress - call 999
  • For less urgent matters - 101
  • Crime Stoppers (for giving anonymous information) - 0800 555 111
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