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How to keep your shed and ‘shoffice’ safe from crooks

Keep your outbuilding safe from crooks: £30m-worth of gear was nicked from garages, garden rooms and ‘shoffices’ in three years – here’s eight security tips

  • Over 70,000 outbuilding thefts reported in England and Wales since 2018
  • Spike in sheds and the ‘shoffice’ during lockdown has exacerbated problem 
  • Take some simple steps and protect your outbuildings from criminals now 

More than £30million worth of possessions have been stolen from garden sheds and outbuildings across England and Wales in the past three years.

Since the start of 2018, there have been more than 70,000 reported cases of such thefts, equating to about 64 a day.

During the pandemic, people have been busy building, and working in, sheds and garden offices all over the country, ploughing more cash than ever into these multi-purpose spaces. 

The trend has even seen some new terminology coined – with ‘shoffice’ now used to refer to any functional structure at the end of the garden.

Watch out: The rise in outdoor living and working spaces can be just what a crook is after

The value of items stored in an outbuilding or shed is, on average, £1,414, yet nearly 70 per cent of Britons admit they leave them if not unlocked then certainly accessible to any proficient burglar, according to Churchill Home Insurance. 

Eight per cent of people even store goods worth more than £5,000 in their outbuildings. 

Last year, a fifth of all burglary claims were for items pinched from outbuildings. In insurance terms, this equated to around £26,500 worth of claims for thefts from sheds, garages and outbuildings being made every day.

Over the past three years, garages are the most broken into outbuildings, followed by garden sheds and bike sheds.  

Bicycles were the most common item stolen over the three year period, accounting for over half of all items reported stolen to police.

Targets: items most likely to be stolen from outbuildings in the last three years

Targets: items most likely to be stolen from outbuildings in the last three years

Variations: Rate of outbuilding theft by region over the last three years

Variations: Rate of outbuilding theft by region over the last three years

Tools and hardware accounted for 22 per cent of thefts, followed by gardening equipment and plants, electronics and appliances and raw materials.

Homeowners in the south east of England were the most likely to need to make a home insurance claim relating to an outbuilding theft, accounting for one in seven claims last year, Churchill said.

Tips to help keep your sheds and outbuildings safe from crooks

No one wants to have thieves rifling through their personal belongings, whether its in a home or a shed. 

Here, Churchill Home Insurance and This is Money give eight tips to help you protect your outdoor spaces from criminals:

1. Make sure your outbuilding or shed is locked at all times, even while you are at home. Crooks won’t care whether you’re at home or not if they want something.

2. If possible, install movement detection lights on or near your outbuilding. These, in some cases, might help you to spot a thief in advance.

3. If you have a window, remove high value items from view or black out the window.

4. Chain and padlock expensive items, such as bikes or motorbikes, to the ground or wall. Use a decent padlock. Cheap isn’t always best for this sort of thing.

5. Consider storing smaller, high value items in a safe. And, think about whether you really do need to actually store them in an outbuilding. 

6. Deter burglars by planting holly bushes, hawthorn or other prickly plants around the boundaries of your garden. This can be off-putting for thieves who want to get in and out as quickly as possible.

7. Putting gravel or stones on your garden paths or by your shed will make it harder for burglars to be quiet. This won’t always deter thieves obviously, but it is something to consider.

8. Finally, make sure you get insurance to cover contents in your sheds, garages and other buildings. Check carefully what is and is not covered and remember that the cheapest may not always be the best for this sort of thing. 

This was followed by London, Yorkshire and the Humber and the south west of England and the north west.

Homes with easy access to gardens like semi-detached, detached and end-of-terraces accounted for the majority of outbuilding thefts since 2018.

Only 65 per cent of people in the south east own an outbuilding and the proportion is even less in London. Yet, while 90 per cent of the Welsh population have an outbuilding, it experienced only three per cent of all outbuilding thefts last year. 

Be careful: People in the south east of England are most likely to have things nicked from sheds

Be careful: People in the south east of England are most likely to have things nicked from sheds

Take precautions: Take a few simple precautions and get insurance to help protect your property

Take precautions: Take a few simple precautions and get insurance to help protect your property

Pritpal Powar, head of Churchill Home Insurance, said: ‘This research shows just how easy it can be for burglars to steal goods from outbuildings. 

‘Many of us don’t give the same attention to the security of outbuildings as we do our main home, yet often store valuable goods there, Churchill said.

‘These are great storage facilities, but we need to make sure they are not an easy target for burglars.

‘Taking some simple steps will help deter burglars and these don’t need to be expensive security systems. Installing locks, removing valuables from sight and making sure the outbuilding is easily viewed or well-lit from your main residence will all contribute to making your home less of a target.’

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