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There have been a many stories in the news about homes being broken into by burglars using the homeowner's own ladder. At the time of writing the most recent example comes from America, where a burglar used a ladder he found on the property to gain access to a first floor sliding door in order to rob the house. The burglar turned off the electricity to the house so no alarms would be set off, and $27,000 worth of property was taken, including electrical items and tools. The householders found a pile of furniture in the driveway, which the burglar seemed to have intended to pick up on a return journey. This level of planning indicates an experienced housebreaker using a van to get away with the spoils. However, an opportunist or novice burglar will be enticed by finding a ladder lying around a property as it presents such an easy way to access a property.
Even wheelie bins can be used in place of a ladder for a burglar to gain access to your home through an open window. It's a good idea to make sure that bins, as well as ladders, are hidden from sight wherever possible. Trees close to the house provide a natural ladder for an intruder to climb, so make sure no branches come too close to the house, and that lower branches are not accessible from the ground.
On the subject of home security, it is a good idea to spend a few minutes looking around the outside of your home with the mindset of trying to break in. Check that windows are closed, and remember to close them when you leave. Tools left in the garden, or easily accessible, can be used to help a burglar break in, so make sure crowbars, screwdrivers, hammers and even bricks and large rocks aren't left lying around where they can be used to smash a window. Motion activated security lights are a really cost effective way of deterring intruders, as the possibility of being caught in the act is greatly increased when floodlights are illuminating their every move. Trellises for climbing plants against the house also provide a ladder for potential burglars. Make sure climbing plants on trellises are not positioned near windows, or if they are, plant thorny shrubs and flowers such as roses or blackberry bushes to make climbing the trellis painful and difficult. Planting cacti in window boxes also provides a deterrent for would be intruders.
Most of the tips above apply to the whole neighbourhood. It's no good keeping your own ladders and tools under lock and key if your neighbours leave them lying around. It's just as easy for a thief to use a neighbour's ladder to break into your home. If you see someone other than your neighbour, or someone who is obviously working on the house, carrying a ladder around the property then either challenge them or call the police to report suspicious activity. It is very easy to mistake a burglar for a window cleaner or other maintenance person, so don't just assume the person up the ladder is working; they could be breaking in or checking out what is inside the house that's worth stealing.
Earlier this year in America, this exact action helped police catch a burglar they had been after for some time. A man out jogging in his neighbourhood noticed a ladder propped against a wall of his neighbour's house, so he called the police to report suspicious activity, also giving the police the registration number of the car he believed to belong to the burglar. The police tracked down the car and arrested the suspect, charging him with that crime and the ones they believed he was involved with.
Ladders around the home should be stored inside where possible. A step ladder can be easily stored in a built in cupboard, down the side of the freezer, in the garage (on an overhead rack if floor space is a problem) or in a locked shed outdoors. If there is no place to store a ladder indoors and there is no locked shed, then consider investing in a lockable ladder rack. These contraptions not only store your ladder, but they make it impossible for a burglar to then use that ladder to break into your home. A padlock is supplied with this system, but for added security against losing the keys, a heavy duty combination padlock is a good idea. If you live in a rented property and are not allowed to fix anything to the walls of the dwelling, then find an immoveable object, such as a tree or a strong fencepost, and use a bike lock or a chain to secure the ladder to it.
Garden ladders are usually stored outside, as this is where they are used. If there are no lockable outbuildings then the ladder should be hidden well, or ideally secured to the outside of the house using a lockable rack like the one described above.
Another recent example of a ladder being used in a break in, albeit not in the normal way, comes fromLondonearlier this year. A youth broke into a training centre inLondon, falling twelve feet through a suspended ceiling. The entire incident was caught on CCTV, and staff were baffled by the man's strange behaviour when they watched the tape back. After falling through the ceiling, he made a cup of tea and turned on a games console to play a football game. Apparently becoming bored of the game after a few hours, he tried to watch television, but the remote control was broken. Frustrated at being locked in with nothing to do, he found a ladder and used that to climb back through the hole he had made in the ceiling, escaping for six days before the police caught up with him. Although this is an odd incident, and typically thieves don't use ladders to break out of homes or businesses, it does go to show that ladders are always going to be used by thieves in some way or another.
A similar incident in America was broadcast online as the footage of the burglar trying to escape from a store he was robbing turned out to be rather amusing. The burglar found a ladder that he thought would provide a good escape route through the ceiling. Unfortunately for the man, he did not have very good balancing skills and did not think about how to use a ladder safely (do not stand on the top rung for starters) . He fell off the ladder six times before finally making his getaway. The footage can be seen here.
Often, a ladder is the very item that is going to be stolen, rather than used to steal other items. Industrial and trade ladders are worth a lot of money and also cost a lot to replace, so thieves can easily sell these types of ladder, or indeed use them to commit further crimes. If ladders are stored on a roof rack there are clamps designed to hold the ladder securely in place. These clamps are also lockable and supplied with padlocks. Make sure also that the ladders are covered by insurance, so if they are stolen then the cost of replacing them is borne by the insurance company. If your ladder is stolen, be sure to report the theft to the police as soon as possible. If the stolen ladder is used in a crime, and has your fingerprints on it, then there could be some explaining to do if the theft isn't reported right away.
There are lots of measures you can take to protect your home and your ladders; some are cheaper than others and not all of them are applicable to all situations, but there is definitely something for everyone. The best step you can take is to secure your ladders either indoors or outside with padlocks, all the other measures can come later.