Update from Des Camblin – Chairman Kingswood Residents Association
I circulated an initial note on security following the two recent serious burglaries in Kingswood. Naturally there has been considerable discussion and activity on this matter since then. It must be stressed that the KRA is not equipped to give advice on security nor does it offer opinion on the effectiveness or otherwise of specific measures. However it can act as a facilitator to relay on to residents advice obtained from professional security advisers, to keep residents informed and to seek and collate their views.
Expert advice on security has been sought from several sources. Some of this has already been received but more is awaited and this further advice will be circulated to residents as it becomes available. Already a number of points have become clear. Firstly there seems to be a very wide range of views as to our risk level in the village. Some people have expressed deep concern that Kingswood is seen by criminals as a “soft” target and hold the view that extensive security measures should be introduced urgently to combat this. Others have said that whilst we should be reviewing security following these crimes, any additional measures should not be such that they change the character of the area. Clearly there is a wide range of opinion across the community.
Security feedback to date suggests that there are two basic types of burglars operating in Kingswood. Most burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves who have not necessarily targeted a particular property, but look around for one which appears to them to be relatively vulnerable.
Since Kingswood is largely surrounded by open land, it has no natural perimeter. It is also criss-crossed with public byways which would be extremely difficult to close for legal reasons. Advice to date therefore suggests that the first consideration therefore should be for each resident to consider the level of security of their own house. We should check for security weaknesses and address them initially by looking round the exterior of our house as if we locked ourselves out and imagine how we might manage to get in. The same exercise should be repeated around the perimeter. There may be large gates and high hedges surrounding the garden, but we are urged to walk round and look for weak points, especially at the rear and side remembering that burglars often climb fences from one back garden to another to gain access. Looked at in this way, vulnerable points may be identified which have not really been considered previously.
Fraudsters also use the fact that many houses in Kingswood have post boxes at their perimeter, to steal mail in order to commit identity theft. Shallow post boxes are very insecure, but a really deep box makes this type of crime much more difficult. At least one resident has fitted a camera just above the box which actually led to a criminal being identified and arrested.
We have been advised that there are five key levels to home security: –
- An occupied house is generally less vulnerable (despite recent exceptions in Kingswood).
- Lighting to both the front and rear of a house overnight is a deterrent although this should at a low level so as not to be intrusive. Lighting to the front could be operated by a movement sensor so that it lights up as the occupants come home after dark. Movement sensors to the rear may need more thought since they can be set off by foxes, cats or other animals.
- Locks, bolts and bars represent the next level of deterrent.
- Controlled access.
- Alarms and CCTV. CCTV cameras can be useful although we are advised that their role in role in crime prevention (rather than detection) is seen as minimal.
Advice received so far also suggests that the appearance of the immediate surroundings is also important. Properties which do not look tidy and cared for tend to be a target for the opportunist thief who will assume the owner is also lax about security. Well cared for houses tend to have modern alarms, security locks and other features to deter criminals. It was observed that in the main, Kingswood already scores highly in this respect.
Despite the earlier comments on the lack of a perimeter, various communal security measures are also under discussion amongst some residents. These might include private security patrols (possibly ex-military) CCTV cameras at the main entrances to the Warren Estate and possibly elsewhere in the village, possibly upgraded to include an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) facility. It has been suggested that these could include a screen which displays the number plate of each passing vehicle. Thus anyone entering the road will realise that their number plate has been logged. At least within the Warren Estate, some residents are strongly in favour installing gates at each entrance. The practical issues as to how such gates would be controlled and managed have yet to be settled.
Communal security measures would obviously need to be costed and residents views would need to be gathered on the various options before any such measures could proceed. Costains have already indicated that in cases where they own the road, they would not object if residents wished to install such features. When the further security advice becomes available, it will also be circulated to residents whose views on communal security will be invited and collated to see if there strong support for the various options being considered.
Kingswood Residents Association