Don’t Give Thieves An Early Christmas Gift

Christmas can be a high old time for burglars and thieves. The nights are dark and cold, you’re buying lots of treats ready for wrapping and giving to your friends and family, and you’re preparing to be out of the house for much of the time. It’s perfect for people planning no good. Not giving them the upper hand is simple though. A few common-sense precautions, one or two deterrents, and your home is safe and secure.

Don’t make your home a target. Many thieves operate at this time of year because the dark afternoons mean that they get to enjoy the best of both worlds: people are out at work, out shopping or walking the dog, but the houses in the neighbourhood are shrouded in darkness. There’s every chance they will have been in your area earlier that day to see if you’re home, checked your security measures and possibly taken a look through the window to see what they’re going to steal when they come back once night has fallen.

Most burglars are opportunist, and by no means professional. They cause thousands of pounds worth of damage stealing goods worth a few hundred that they will only get a few pounds for when they sell them on. They don’t plan beyond looking at the security precautions you’ve on display, they don’t have housebreaking skills or specialist tools, generally they will only spend about a minute trying to force their way in. If they’re successful they will spend 10-12 minutes inside and then leave. They don’t spend time looking carefully at the kinds of door locks you have, whether they can bypass the circuit, or any of that, if they can force their way in without making too much noise, grab what they want and get away again before the police are likely to arrive then your house is good enough for them.

Maintenance Is As Important As Preparation

So keep your windows and doors well maintained. Houses that look tatty from the outside appeal to burglars rather than putting them off. A house which isn’t well looked after is less likely to have alarms or security devices, doors and windows are less likely to have quality locks, and if the frames are old they are likely to be deformed or rotten. A good shoulder and they’ll give in in well under that minute.

Criminals who do put the work in are likely to come to the door and see if you’re in. They’ll pretend to have a good reason to be coming to your door, for example sales, surveys, a new neighbour looking for directions. They just want an excuse to come close to the house, see who lives there, and look inside where they can. They’re not to be confused with distraction burglars who trick you in to letting them in and stealing from you when you’re busy. Distraction burglars pretend to be gas, water or electricity engineers, charity collectors, or sales and the advice was to check their ID before letting them in. However, it’s so easy to make convincing ID cards and credentials these days the advice is to not let anybody in, whoever they say they are, unless you’re expecting them for a pre-arranged appointment.

Keep Windows And Doors Securely Sealed

While many burglaries happen when criminals are able to force their way in, more than half don’t require any force at all, they simply walk in through doors and windows which haven’t been locked securely. They’ll use the front door, but prefer a back door as it can’t be seen from the street and they are often more poorly secured than the front of the house. So while you’re fitting locks to the front and back doors, fit a good quality lock to the gate that goes between the front and the back of your house too. Gardens which back onto open land, parks or access routes are popular with burglars too as they allow easy unobserved entry. Plant a prickly hedge or strong, easily maintained fence around your property. It not only keeps people out, equally as importantly it makes people think about how they’re going to get out. If they can’t just vault over it with a bag full of your stuff in their hand, is it worth breaking in at all?

Your location is important when you’re looking at your home security. Burglars prefer isolated properties, semis, detached houses and end-of-terrace as they offer at least three angles of approach, plenty of space to move around and often lots of places to conceal themselves as they prepare to break in. These properties are likely to have sheds and outbuildings too. There are many reasons why thieves love a shed or garage; they are usually less secured than homes, the contain many valuable, easily taken and sold on goods, including bikes, tools, and garden equipment. They often have items which can be used to make breaking in to your house easier. They don’t need to go out ‘tooled up’ if they can find pry bars, screwdrivers, drills and ladders on your own land.

It’s Not The Bite, It’s The Bark

When a burglar is looking for houses to target they naturally avoid homes that look like they’ve been protected with additional security. They don’t go near houses which have dogs not because they fear getting bitten, but because of the noise they make. A dog going berserk as you’re trying to force your way in is going to attract attention. Similarly, trying to discretely take goods out of a house where the security alarm is screaming is going to draw the glances of the neighbours, and the police. Similarly, security CCTV cameras trained on the drive, doors and windows, sheds and garages are a sure sign that they won’t be able to get in, take what they want and get out again without being noticed.

It’s nice to have a lovely home, but try to avoid making your house a showcase for your valuables. Nobody wants to live like a prisoner in their own home, and you didn’t work hard to afford nice things just to hide them away from prying eyes, but you should take reasonable precautions. These can be as simple as keeping the curtains closed when it gets dark. If you have the lights blazing and every passer by can see what you have within reach of an open window then some people will find the temptation too much to bear. When you’re planning the layout of a room, think about putting high value electronics in a spot where they can’t be seen by anybody who comes onto your property. And make sure devices such as laptops, tablets, and music players which are easily removable are put away safely when you’re not home.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

A crime which is becoming ever more common is using a stick or rod to take car keys which have been put down too near the front door when the home-owner comes home at night. Thieves either break in or hook the keys and drive the car out of the drive. Once they have your keys they can open any door. Simply keeping keys somewhere out of sight, and out of reach of the front door will put paid to this emerging tactic.

Thieves generally only take what they can carry, and they like to be in and out as quickly as possible. If you are the unfortunate victim of a break-in, it can be hard to reclaim your property if it’s not properly identified. Keep receipts for the goods you buy, not down serial numbers and write your address on items which don’t have their own markers with UV pens. Take photos of things like jewellery and ceramics so if and when the police recover them, you’ll be able to say with certainty that they are yours.

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