The classic theory is that property crime rises faster in times of economic strife and, although at the beginning of the year, government statistics showed a surprise 8% fall in crime last year, those working closely with crime prevention bodies are still predicting an increase in crime as a result of cuts in government benefits. There are also leading academics who say that there is still a strong relationship between crime and the economy, on the basis that the overall level of property crime largely reflects the size of the market for stolen or illicit goods, which in time of recession expands.
While the threat of property crime is always there, awareness tends to vary according to the amount of high-profile media coverage we see. Typical of this was the flurry of media interest in 2012 when an edition of BBC TV Yorkshire’s Inside Out highlighted the situation in West Yorkshire which has the highest burglary rate in the UK. The programme discussed the ease with which criminals can snap a standard Euro cylinder.
The story, which revealed the extent to which criminals were sharing their ‘expertise’ in snapping cylinder locks, was taken up by print and broadcast media across the country. The nature of this type of crime, and the style and level of press coverage, can have a direct impact on the sale of security products as the public becomes aware of new threats.
Whether in reality levels of crime have fallen or will rise, there is certainly an increased awareness amongst the general public of security issues, fuelled by police initiatives, insurance requirements and, of course, media coverage. For the locksmith industry, this awareness, coupled with tightened household budgets creates an area of opportunity. While householders looking to increase the security of their property may not have the money to spare for new doors they can be open to solutions that make their existing doors more secure.
The security industry made great strides in 2012 in developing standards. For retro-fit situations, we saw the introduction of the new Technical Specification 007 (TS 007), produced by the Door & Hardware Federation and the Glass and Glazing Federation which was designed specifically to address the vulnerability of lock cylinders.
Meeting these standards, ERA introduced a number of products, including the Lockguard handle, which meets the standard’s two-star rating and the High Security handle, uniquely designed to protect the cylinder from attack. Offering the best protection against cylinder bumping or snapping is the Vectis Plus, which does away completely with the cylinder and meets all the requirements of PAS 23/24 and Secured by Design with a five-lever lock operation. It is products such as these that signal the opportunities in the retro-fit market. It will require a degree of customer re-education and we shouldn’t just rely on media scare stories to increase awareness of new products.
The great opportunity for locksmiths called in to repair or replace existing locks is to offer their
customers enhanced levels of security. Like-for-like replacement of the traditional mortice lock/nightlatch may be the easy option, but it is far from the best solution. Security technology has moved on to such a degree that we can now offer customers cylinder-free solutions such as the Vectis Plus, the new British Standard Kitemarked Fortress MPL, high-security handles and anti-bump cylinders – a whole range of solutions which will increase add value to the locksmith’s offer by delivering heightened levels of security to their customers.
Security technology moves on all the time. The market has already seen the introduction of keyless technology which is firmly established in the commercial sector and in multi-occupancy dwellings. In reality, in the domestic sector, this technology is unlikely to have a significant impact in the foreseeable future. Going forward, there will be a closer tie-in between electronics and locking systems and the next stage is likely to see the development of electronic fobs for remote locking of doors and windows. Already firmly established in the automotive sector, this is likely to be less of a culture shock for the average householder than keyless technology.
For the immediate future, however, the emphasis in the market will be on offering enhanced levels of security to overcome issues such as cylinder bumping, snapping or drilling. In addition to the products we already offer, ERA will continue to introduce new products aimed at the retro-fit market which will enable locksmiths to continue to offer their customers looking to upgrade the security of their homes an affordable, effective solutions.