As we visit friends and families over the festive season lots of dwellings will be left empty. Throw in the long dark nights and homes filled with (increasingly fancy) gifts, and it can be an irresistible mix for burglars.
And if that all sounds like scaremongering, it’s really not meant to. Official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of reported burglaries has actually fallen in the UK over the past decade. But statistics also show there’s a trend for burglaries to increase over the Christmas period, so it’s wise to be prepared.
My flat was broken into a couple of years ago, and, as anyone who’s been burgled will attest, it really knocks you sideways, eliciting a range of emotions, from sadness to anger and helplessness. However, like with many burglaries, there was actually quite a lot we could have done to prevent it.
Give your house that ‘lived-in look’
As most break-ins are opportunistic rather than pre-meditated, it makes sense to give your house or apartment that ‘we’re at home’ look. Well-known tricks I now try to employ when I leave town are to ask my neighbours to open and close the curtains, and to pick up the post to stop it accumulating in the hallway. The Royal Mail ‘Keepsafe’ service can also help with the latter point if you’re going away for some time, by withholding your post for up to two months.
Another tried and tested measure is to ask your neighbours to park their car in your driveway. While perhaps the best device to suggest to would-be burglars that you’re at home is a lamp with a timer that turns on and off automatically at set times. These have become increasingly sophisticated, with appliances available that even allow you to control your lights via your smart phone.
The Christmas lights are on but nobody’s home
Of course, to really feel confident that your home is secure, you need to have invested in decent locks on doors and windows. The police officer who dealt with my burglary told me that the culprits probably opened the front door using a credit card (don’t ask me how, but it’s apparently a common method). They wouldn’t have been able to do this if we’d had a five-lever mortise deadlock, however. If you don’t already have one, find a recommended local home security company that will fit one.
Burglar alarms are an additional defence, while keeping valuables out of sight is another common sense way to keep your home safe. It’s fine to deck the hall with boughs of holly, but decorating it with the latest iPad or digital camera could lead to heartbreak. A situation that no-one wants at Christmas. Tis the season to be jolly, afterall.
What are your tips on giving your house a ‘lived-in’ look while you’re away? Do you avoid travelling at Christmas because of fears of burglary?