Homeowners have been urged to ensure that sufficient steps, such as ensuring metal gates are locked, are taken to protect their properties this winter.

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) said that the risk of burglary increases during the cold months, given that longer hours of darkness make properties more susceptible.

James Kelly, chief executive of the BSIA, said homeowners may want to consider improvements to their home security.

However, he added that this needn't be expensive or difficult.

"Even the simplest of measures can considerably reduce the risk of break-ins," he said.

"Most burglars are opportunists and will just try doors and gates to see if they are locked. Therefore straightforward actions like making sure that doors and gates are properly locked can defeat them," he added.

For those considering making improvements, Mr Kelly said that measures like window and door locks, intruder alarms, CCTV and property marking systems were all available.

He also urged homeowners to select "quality security solutions, provided by a professional company that complies with appropriate standards".

This month, police forces across the country have been issuing winter burglary alerts to residents.ADNFCR-3337-ID-800225505-ADNFCR