We’re firm believers in the importance of intruder alarms for domestic properties. Most insurance companies will discount your premium if you provide proof of an alarm system that is regularly maintained. The presence of an alarm box acts as a powerful deterrent against burglars, who will often move on to an insecure property instead of one which is well protected. The noise should scare off those who take the chance that your alarm is not set, and the noise should also alert your neighbours to the fact that something is wrong.
We know, however, that most neighbours won’t do anything if your alarm goes off, with figures from surveys ranging from 33% of people not taking any action, and a whopping 87% (from a study conducted in Ireland in 2012). In an ideal world, your neighbour would look out of the window at the very least, and would then take steps to discern whether there is a break in or a fire. We know that in the past most neighbours wouldn’t even go this far, so has the pandemic affected the chances of your neighbour taking action when they hear an alarm sounding?
We’d like to think that the sense of community that has been strengthened by the pandemic would change these figures, but we will have to wait for a study to be conducted before we have any concrete answers. It is likely that people will have forged some kind of bond with their neighbours from the weekly clapping, the VE Day street parties or just a neighbour network set up to help vulnerable, shielding and self-isolating neighbours. Ideally this will have effected a change in their behaviour when they hear an alarm, and now they will be more likely to investigate and call the police if necessary.
What are the correct steps to take when you hear an alarm sounding in your street? Firstly, observe the situation. Can you see smoke? Can you see anyone suspicious fleeing the scene or lurking? Look for vehicles that aren’t normally parked in the street and note down the registration number in case it is useful in catching burglars. Ensure that you observe for at least 10 minutes from when you first hear the alarm – most burglaries are over in less than 10 minutes, so it’s this window of time when you’re likely to see someone running away.
If you have your neighbours’ contact details, or you’re in a Whatsapp group for the street, then do contact them directly or through a group chat – someone may have their contact details and can let them know their alarm is going off. People with smartphone linked systems may be able to check their home cameras and turn off the siren if it’s a false alarm, but if there is a burglary in progress they’ll also be able to see evidence on home CCTV systems.
Don’t put yourself in any danger, so if you see smoke coming from the building, don’t attempt to enter and fight the fire, instead call the fire brigade immediately. If you see someone fleeing the scene never attempt to confront them, but do note their description and the direction they went in. If you’re able to film or photograph the suspect from a safe distance then do, but don’t risk retaliation or confrontation to do so.
If you have reason to believe a crime is in progress then call the police on 999. If, however, you see someone skulking around but not in the act of breaking in this can be reported on the 101 non-emergency telephone number so the police have a record. If there is no evidence of a fire or crime, be sure to let your neighbour know that their alarm went off, as frequent false alarms can be a sign that the system needs some care and attention.