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Home owners across Dorset are being warned to keep their property secure this summer, with a potential rise in domestic burglaries and personal theft claims.
Rural insurance specialist Cornish Mutual is reminding people in the county that they could become a victim of crime, as they leave their windows and doors open or unlocked during warmer weather.
Latest figures from Cornish Mutual show they handled 16 claims for household theft between May and September last year (2011) costing more than £30,000.
Although there were 22 claims in the same period during 2010, there has been a 34 per cent increase in the cost of these claims year-on-year. According to the insurer, the average cost of each claim has rocketed by 83 per cent from £1,049 in 2010 to nearly £2,000 in 2011.
It is thought that the recession, dramatic increases in the price of gold jewellery and growth of personal electronic equipment such as iPads and laptops, has led to a rise in the cost of opportunistic thefts.
New statistics from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that during 2011 there were 276,000 domestic theft claims reported in the UK – 6,000 more than during the previous 12 months and a nine-year record high.
The firm, which has locally-based insurance Inspectors across Dorset, is keen to make it clear that homeowners will not be insured or may find their insurance cover is invalid if the intruder gains entry to the property through an open window or door.
Philip Wilson, Business Development Manager for Cornish Mutual, says:
"Thankfully we live in one of the safest areas in the country, but that doesn't mean that people should be complacent. One thing we are keen to stress is that you could be at risk of finding your insurance invalid if you're burgled and you've left your doors or windows open. You really need to protect those easy-to-grab valuable items which are targeted such as laptops, iPads, cameras, jewellery boxes, mobile phones, games consoles and car keys."
Burglaries from domestic properties, where break-ins target car keys only, have risen 20 per cent year–on-year for the last three years and over £1 million worth of stolen cars are recovered every month in the UK*.
"We are seriously concerned that many people will also have sentimental personal items, particularly jewellery, that are significantly underinsured and they could find themselves losing out if they need to make an insurance claim for an item or items being stolen. Because of the huge increases in the price of gold, you need to make sure your valuable items are adequately secured and insured."
Mark Harper, Crime Prevention Advisor for Dorset Police says:
"Although house burglary continues to decrease in Dorset they can still be reduced further very simply. Over a third of home burglaries in Dorset do not involve forced entry, and most of these cases occur when there is an unlocked ground floor window or door. Even if you are just at the end of your garden, it is vital to make sure that all doors and windows are locked when there is access from the street.
"These types of burglaries are very preventable; it's just a case of getting yourself into the good habit of keeping doors and windows locked and not exposing yourself to the sneak thief."
"Intruders usually enter your home by either forcing entry through a window or door, or simply opening an unlocked door or window," says Philip Wilson.
"Remember these need to be kept locked, even when you are outside in the garden. You can take some simple precautions to prevent an intruder from entering your property."
Cornish Mutual says that sheds, greenhouses and other outbuildings are also a prime target for thieves – particularly ones with poor or no security measures.
"People often store tools and equipment worth several thousand pounds in these and criminals know that. Break-ins often happen overnight and it is the less secure storage that's selected."
Cornish Mutual is now murging people to make sure that they have taken out a home buildings and contents insurance policy to protect against theft, check the current value of items and regularly ensure the correct level of cover is adequate for the items they would need to replace, should the worst happen.
The company says homeowners should advise their insurer of particularly valuable items and ask for them to be listed on their policy. They should take photographs and keep original receipts, guarantees, valuations and certificates of purchase in a safe place.
For more crime prevention advice visit www.dorset.police.uk