Homeowners planning barbecues and garden parties this weekend are being urged to keep their properties secure, as the number of garden thefts soar.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales the number of garden thefts rose by 23% to 595,000 in 2018, up from 483,000 the previous year.
Amongst the most frequently stolen items were barbecues, lawnmowers, play equipment, garden furniture, plants and strangely even garden gnomes.
During the same period thefts from inside properties fell by 2% to 669,000.
Commenting on the figures, Steve Gibbon, a former police detective who now runs his own security consultancy says: “Garden gadgets are an increasingly attractive prospect for thieves. A high-end barbecue or a robotic lawnmower can cost a lot of money these days - but we do not treat them with the same care as other valuables.
“We leave them outside and unlocked in a way we would never do with a laptop or a mobile phone worth the same value.
“We feel garden equipment is safe within the grounds of our house, but it is not hard to move a lawnmower or even a barbecue on wheels.
“It might be an inconvenience, but people should keep their garden equipment under lock and key when they are out - in a garden shed or fixed to something with a decent padlock to reduce the risk.”
Check your cover
Homeowners should also check how much cover their home insurance provides for items stored outside. Although some policies will cover contents kept in the garden, others require them to be locked in a shed or outhouse. Garden cover is often provided as an optional bolt on.
Research from MoneySuperMarket meanwhile has found that the average UK garden has contents worth £1,270. Yet despite this 67% of Brits have never listed an item such as a bike that is stored outside on the home insurance. Furthermore 33% of those that had items stolen from their garden were not able to claim on their policy because the items were not covered.
Mike Jackson, director of financial services at John Lewis & Partners, says: “People should be able to enjoy their gardens without fear that their lawnmower or barbecue might be stolen while their back is turned. Unfortunately, these gadgets and even potted plants or children's slides, can be a target for thieves.
“We offer cover for garden equipment even if it is not locked up because we know our customers value their outdoor space - and we hope this helps to offer them peace of mind to make the most of it and protect against barbecue bandits this summer.”
The cover is optional on its essential and plus policies but included as standard on its premier policy.
Tips to keep your garden safe:
· Lock valuables away: in the event of a theft claim your insurer will want to know if the item was locked in an outbuilding and will usually ask for proof of forced entry.
· Defend your property: make sure gates have locks fitted and use security lights to deter thieves. Shrubs and plants along borders may put intruders off scaling walls.
· Secure your bike: always keep bikes locked in an outbuilding. Some policies may even stipulate that bikes themselves should be locked to an unmoveable object within.
· Know your policy: check what your policy covers. Insurers often limit claims for garden items.