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Some hints on how to make your property secure

Everyone needs a holiday some time. And however much you like your home, there's nothing like a change of surroundings.

But you want to come home and find everything as you left it. Four out of five burglaries occur when a house or flat is empty, so don't advertise that you're away on holiday.

Plan ahead The checklist below will help you to keep your home secure. Read it now so that you can plan ahead. Then tick off the items just before you go. Help from your neighbours It's also a good idea to get help from your neighbours. All you have to do is fill in the card below and give it to a friend or neighbour. It asks them to keep an eye on your home while you're away. You could also ask them to collect post left in the letter-box, sweep up leaves, even mow the lawn and generally make the place look lived in.

You can repay the favour by doing the same for them. Warn your key-holding neighbour not to put your surname, address or even your house number on your keys in case they fall into the wrong hands. Is there a Neighbourhood Watch scheme where you live? It could help you keep your home secure while you're away, and has many other crime prevention and community benefits.

Checklist Help reduce the risk of your home being broken into by taking some simple home security measures. The free booklet "Your Practical Guide to Crime Prevention" has over a hundred tips on preventing crime, available from your local police station or write to Home Office, PO Box 999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6FS. Leave small valuable items, like jewellery, on deposit at the bank, or consider installing a small floor safe. Don't lock internal doors or desks - they may be forced if someone does break in.

Mark any other valuable items with your postcode followed by the house number or the first two letters of the house name. Then if they are stolen and later found, the police can identify and return them to you. Use the right security marker - DIY shops sell property-marking kits. Ask your local crime prevention officer for "postcoded property" warning stickers to display in the front and back windows of your property. Also take photos of all valuable items. This is particularly important for those which may be unsuitable for marking.

Arrange for pets to be properly looked after. Cut the lawn before you go.

Cancel deliveries of milk, newspapers, etc., discreetly - don't announce your departure to a shop full of people. Only tell people who need to know you're going away. Make sure your property looks occupied. Closed curtains in the daytime make it look as if no one is home. It is worthwhile to get automatic time-switches to switch lights - and a radio - on and off in downstairs rooms.

Don't leave valuable items like TVs, videos or hi-fi visible through windows. Lock the garage and shed with proper security locks, after putting all your tools safely away so they cannot be used to break into your property. If you have to leave a ladder out, put it on its side and lock it to a secure fixture with a 'close-shackle' padlock and a heavy-duty chain.

Secure all doors - If your front and back doors are not secure, neither is your home. Two thirds of burglars gain entry through a door.

If you are replacing a door, take the opportunity to improve your security by installing a door that is certified to British Standard PAS 24-1 'Doors of Enhanced Security'.

Ask for it to be fitted with a chain or bar and, if it doesn't have a window or other means of checking who's at the door, a door viewer.