The recent burglary on the £16 million London home of Premiership footballer David Ospina is yet another example of what appears to be a continuous trend of luxury homes of high profile individuals being targeted by criminal gangs. The Arsenal star’s luxury mansion, located in one of London’s most exclusive suburbs, was raided by burglars while his supermodel wife and children were asleep upstairs.
Within the past few weeks, a number of high profile celebrities have been the unfortunate victims of audacious burglaries, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver whose £7 million North London luxury mansion was raided and ransacked. Sherlock Holmes star Benedict Cumberbatch is another celebrity to raise concerns over the safety and security of his wife and child following an incident of stalker harassment at their north London home. Whilst this incident may not have been as traumatic as a burglary, it highlights the potential vulnerability of some high profile celebrities and their families.
Other recent incidents demonstrate that criminals are prepared to use brutal violence to achieve their aims. Earlier this month, Geraldine Winner, widow of film director Michael Winner was taken to hospital after being beaten with an iron bar during an attack at her Knightsbridge home. In Manchester, robbers armed with baseball bats made off with £175,000 worth of goods in a raid on the luxury mansion of Everton footballer Tom Cleverley.
Considerable wealth and a luxury lifestyle are some of the many trappings of celebrity status yet many celebrities fail to realise that coupled with their rise to fame is the unfortunate fact that their homes and families are under constant threat from the criminally minded. Irrespective of status and wealth, the cost of burglary can be financially burdensome as well as being emotionally and physically draining for the victims. The psychological impact, particularly for the victims of a violent burglary can be devastating.
As luxury homes continue to be targeted by organised criminal gangs, the utilisation of a few basic measures can significantly reduce the threat. Burglars tend to select homes that have little or no visible security and taking just a few basic steps can make a substantial difference. Here’s a few of the more basic considerations;
- The installation of a burglar alarm that meets UK industry standards and is visible from the outside is a must.
- Any home could be at risk if it appears to be empty, therefore leave lights, a radio or the TV on to make the property appear occupied.
- Ensure that any valuables, including car keys are left out of sight.
- When leaving your home, ensure that all doors and windows are locked and the burglar alarm is set, even if you’re only going out for a few minutes.
- Put keys out of reach of letterboxes.
- Store any high value items such as cash, jewellery or passports in a properly secured safe.
- If leaving the property unoccupied for a few days then additional action should be taken. Consider asking a trusted friend or neighbour to visit the property to open and close curtains and use a timer device to turn the lights on at night.
Adopting a layered approach to protecting your property should be adopted by working from the outside in. If sufficient measures are implemented in the grounds outside of the main building this should act as a first-line deterrent to any would-be raiders. Basic considerations here are;
- Any climbing aids such as ladders and wheelie bins should be locked away.
- Increase the difficulty of scaling fences by fitting a trellis.
- Ensure sheds are locked and secured to prevent tools being used to break in.
- Consider sighting CCTV systems covering vulnerable areas.
- Intruder lights can be extremely effective but make sure they can’t be reached or tampered with.
- Razor wire and broken glass could potentially cause injury making the property owner liable therefore, consider using dense and prickly climbing plants.
When offering advice to the general public on how to protect their homes, most police forces advise against segregating their home from the surrounding streets with high walls and vegetation. However, due to the added problem of public and press intrusion into their personal lives, celebrities often have little choice other than to surround their home with high walls. Additional security measures must therefore be considered as once a high wall is compromised, it affords the intruder a great deal of cover from being spotted by neighbours or anyone that happens to be passing by.
A large proportion of luxury homes are located in secluded and semi-rural areas. Unfortunately, this type of isolation can present a perfect target for anyone with harmful intentions. There’s also an additional disadvantage in that police response times may be slower thus affording the intruders crucial time to break in to the property and make their getaway.
Relying on your local constabulary to solve the issue would be incredibly naïve. Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police recently warned that police officers will only be dispatched to a break-in if the suspects are still at the scene. However, if someone returns to find their home has been ransacked and the perpetrators have fled, the victims will not be treated as priority.
It’s been well publicised that police forces throughout the country are drastically overstretched. A number of high profile and high net worth individuals are turning to the private security sector to patrol and safeguard their homes. Hiring a reputable security firm such as London based company Intrepid Risk Management can prove to be a sound investment as it provides a robust 24/7 round-the-clock presence without intruding on the lifestyle of the homeowner.
The financial and emotional impact of burglary is undeniably a harrowing and traumatic experience for the victims, no matter who they are. Prevention is surely better than cure.
Ed Hill MA FdA