Blog 01.06.18

Interview with Robert Povey, ex-Superintendent

This month we sat with Robert Povey, ex-Superintendent at Thames Valley Police and Director at 4D Insight, to get a better understanding of the risks surrounding vacated properties throughout Summer and the measures that can be taken to better prevent burglaries. 

  1. Could you tell us a bit more about your past role within the police force and your current role?

I spent 30 years in the police reaching the rank of Superintendent when I retired in 2014. It was an amazing career and being able to serve in the Public Sector was a real privilege. I mainly focussed on operational policing and was involved in a variety of roles including being an Area Commander, Head of Roads Policing and latterly a Leadership Trainer at the National Police College at Bramshill. In relation to operations I was a nationally accredited, firearms, public order and major sporting events commander and was able to take charge of events such as Royal Ascot and premier league football.

Since retiring, I went to work as a strategic advisor on a national security project in the United Arab Emirates for two years. Since returning to the UK in 2016, I have set up an IT business, 4D Insight, where I have developed a training simulator for use in developing skills in relation to managing incidents using a web based platform. Whilst this is relevant to the police, there is also a great deal of interest in relation to major events, cyber threat, business continuity and broader leadership skills. 


2. During your time working as Police Superintendent, have you noticed an increase in residential break-ins over the Summer period? 

Burglary itself is a very complex crime category with a range of different types of offenders and types of property that is attacked. The majority of crimes do take place in a residential setting and whilst the trends will vary across the country there are general peaks that can be identified during the year. There is certainly an increase in the Summer with property being left unoccupied, and other peaks can be seen when the clocks go back in October with houses clearly empty in those dark early evenings, and also during December in the lead up to Christmas.


3. Did you ever work alongside any security firms in order to prevent such crimes? 

The police are always happy to provide crime reduction advice, and we would make sure we were up to date with the latest security measures available. We were, however, not able to endorse specific products as we had to remain impartial. There were occasions when there were unique products available that we would endorse, and also the option to approve products that met certain standards using Secured By Design, the Official Police Security initiative.  


4. What would you suggest to help prevent break-ins?

Crime patterns will vary, but there are some general rules that can be helpful. Most criminals have been shown to only travel a short distance to commit crime so they are likely to be local and and know the area, so they will look for easy options and a reduced chance of being caught.

When you go on holiday do you need to tell everyone on social media? This makes it clear your house is likely to be empty. If you do this then make sure your security settings restrict your audience. Not having a car on the drive also indicates you may be away, so why not use a taxi to get to the airport, or if you are using the car let a neighbour park on your drive when you are away.

Houses in darkness in the late evening are also a give away, and the days of lights on timers are long gone. You can get lights controlled using your wifi to automatically turn on and off or from your smart phone from anywhere in the world. Now I am not in the police I can tell you that Philips Hue are great and easy to install and you can get set up with two lights for as little as £49. A burglar alarm is a great option and you can now get notifications sent to your phone either from an alarm activation or any sensor activity (e.g. smoke alarms). These range in price and popular brands like Yale are good, but there are others that will even work if there is a loss of wifi such as ERA as they have a back up sim card to send you messages. Both are easy to install with wireless options. As smart homes develop it is good at an early stage to decide on what platform you want to use and select products are compatible with it. Three of the main ones at the moment are from, Apple, Amazon and Google. Unless you want to get a mix of platforms it may be best to see which one has most of the products that meet your needs. This could include lights, alarms, heating, and video verification.

Security cameras are now inexpensive, and live footage can be viewed remotely. Do consider where the footage is stored as burglars may attempt to steal the storage system to remove any evidence. You either need to make sure the hard drive itself is securely located or use a cloud service.

Externally, it is advised to make sure everything is kept locked from side gates to sheds, and when you are at home think twice about leaving your windows open at night especially during those hot Summer nights. You can get latches to prevent windows fully opening so they can be left ajar to get some ventilation which may help. If possible, have a 6 foot high perimeter fence at the rear and the option of a trellis at the top makes it harder to climb. The use of lighting using sensors to detect movement are also good.

If you do have a problem at your home when you are away then it is best to know before you get back, so you can check those notifications by either using an app on your smart phone or have a trusted friend or neighbour who is a key holder and can check it for you. They can also make sure those other tell tale signs such as a build up of post etc are removed to not give away the fact you are on holiday. If you get broken into on the first day of your holiday and find out when you get home two weeks later, then all sorts of other problems could arise. You could have repeat burglaries, damage to your property or even squatters. A small investment could significantly reduce the risk of being broken into.

5. Do you think there is a difference in the number of burglaries within homes with no security measures versus those homes which have employed  security measures?

The evidence does show this to be, yes. The burglars do not want to get caught so if they can see there is an alarm or security cameras and it is hard to gain access to your property, they will look for an easier option. This may be harsh on your neighbour who is not so well prepared, but some simple options can help make sure your holiday is not spoiled by finding your house has been broken into when you return.

Happy travels and enjoy the summer.

We would like to thank Robert for his time and insight. To view more information on the 4D Insight offering, visit




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