Follow these handy tips to make sure Santa isn’t the only one getting into your home during the festive season.
Christmas is a time for giving, receiving … and, unfortunately, taking. Recent crime figures show that incidents have spiked alarmingly over the two-week festive period and, astonishingly, most of those robberies and burglaries go unsolved.
So, what can we do to stop any light-fingered characters casting a black cloud over what should be the brightest and happiest time of the year? Police and leading security experts believe there are many obvious signs registering with thieves that someone has been splashing the cash before Christmas or where Santa has been particularly generous. These include a large build-up of cardboard left alongside bins in the build-up and an abundance of boxes and gift-wrapping left waiting for kerbside collection afterwards.
The advice is to break boxes down as small as possible to squeeze into the recycling bins then take them out as late as possible or, better still, take them to your local recycling centre as soon as you can.
Aside from advertising your absence with posts on social media about spending the festivities at great aunt Hilda’s in Hartlepool or changing your home answerphone message to say: ‘’Hi, we’re not home right now, we’re off for a week in Val d’Isere and will be back on…’’, experts advise homeowners to take note of the following:
Power points: Don’t power your external decorations by trailing an extension cable through a window. It can be an open invitation to burglars, and police say 30 per cent of burglaries occur through open windows. Opt for solar or battery-operated lights. Even better, install outdoor electrical outlets.
Out of sight: Don’t put your wrapped presents around the Christmas tree if you are going out or away for a few days. If you do, make sure your curtains and blinds are drawn or give the impression someone is at home by keeping a light on, thanks to a programmed timer. The same goes for cars – keep your shopping out of sight in the boot. And lock it.
Key to being safe: Don’t hide your house keys ‘in a safe place’ under the third flowerpot from the left on the patio or under the doormat ‘just in case’. Thieves will often look in obvious ‘safe’ places first to make entry easier. Also make sure any ladders are stowed away, and that sheds and garages are securely locked – you wouldn’t want that Christmas bike to get wheeled away or your new set of chisels helping an unwanted guest gain entry. Or, even worse, windup at a car-boot sale.
Paper trail: At any time of year, it’s good practice never to dispose of unwanted receipts and personal paperwork without shredding it. Obviously keep hold of warranty details – and the receipt for that jumper because you seriously under-estimated extra-large– but keep them safe.
Take note: Don’t leave any notes for couriers telling them to leave parcels next door. It’s a sure sign the house is unoccupied, so always make sure you’ve given alternative arrangements to delivery companies.
Plan ahead: If you are going away, remember to cancel milk or paper deliveries and let a friend park on your drive to give the impression the house is still occupied. If they are trusted neighbours, you could always let them have a key to clear post away from the front doormat. And don’t forget timers for key lights.
Very illuminating: Deterrent is still the best form of protection. Invest in a motion-sensor flood light or even some outdoor lights to highlight the exterior of your home; because even a determined burglar won’t fancy being lit up as they go about their nocturnal activities.
Highlighting with decals the fact your possessions are security marked, registered on Immobilise (www.immobilise.com)and, therefore, traceable gives any potential intruder something else to think about.
Light work: Make sure your outside decorations aren’t lit up during daylight hours. You could probably get away with it on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but not on the Monday after. Timers again can help, as can a neighbour with a key.
Keep a watch on the neighbourhood: Even if you can’t afford the latest surveillance equipment, it costs nothing to keep an eye out for any suspicious-looking strangers on the street. They could be innocent, but they could also be scouting for victims.
Safety first: It’s free to register your property on Immobilise, which is a national property database police can access and search if suspected stolen property is recovered. A police spokesman said: “Officers regularly search the houses of suspected criminals and also check car boot sales and second-hand dealers and we have a device that can identify stolen property if the bar code is registered.”