The Christmas season is a time for giving - but for burglars, it's quite the opposite.
Burglary is a constant risk to home owners, with criminals 'stealing a living' by breaking into homes and heartlessly taking the valuable possessions of others. There are certain times of year when the number of burglaries reported tends to spike - and this can often be down to seasonal changes that influence the way we behave in and around our homes.
For example, during the summer months you might decide to leave your windows open to keep your home cool. Without realising it, this could be the only excuse an opportunist thief needs to take advantage. The Christmas period is no different, with many of us vacating our homes to visit family and friends, and splashing the cash on expensive gifts.
In this article, we'll look at the reasons why burglary rates increase over the Christmas period, and what you can do improve the security of your home.
Why do burglary rates increase at Christmas time?
The months leading up to Christmas are perhaps when the risk of burglary becomes most prominent.
Recent statistics suggest that almost 450 burglaries take place each day in the UK - during the two weeks either side of Christmas. [Source]
Burglars prey on the fact homes will be filled with the latest gadgets and valuable gifts ready to be opened on Christmas Day. Worryingly, the amount of information available to burglars is only increasing too, with social media playing a huge role in helping thieves target unsuspecting home owners who share their location and plans for the Christmas period online.
There's also the recent clocks change to consider, with the nights drawing in much earlier throughout the winter months. Burglars use the extended cover of darkness to their advantage, and will find it easy to spot homes that are obviously unoccupied.
And if pre-meditated thievery wasn't enough... there's always the threat of opportunist burglars who will waste no opportunity to take advantage of a lapse in security. Online selling websites make it very easy for criminals to quickly turn your hard-earned valuables into quick profit for themselves.
How do I protect my home from burglars?
Whilst there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of becoming a burglary victim, there are several ways to improve your home security and reduce the likelihood of your home becoming a target.
For instance, it is recommended to install a reliable home security system at your property to act as a deterrent.
There are different types of systems available, however Burglar Alarms are the most well-known. These electronic systems are designed to deter potential intruders and raise an alarm should they enter your home whilst the system is armed.
Other systems include CCTV cameras, which are becoming an increasingly popular option for home owners. External Security Lights are also an effective way to keep dark areas around the home well-lit and stop intruders from snooping around.
Of course, spending money on sophisticated security systems isn't an option for everyone - but the good news is, there are lots of simple, low-cost things you can do to improve your home security.
12 tips to keep your home secure this Christmas
1. Install a Burglar Alarm System
If you don't already have one, consider having an alarm fitted and maintained. Burglars will typically go for the easy option, so an unprotected home will stand out among those that are clearly alarmed. If you do have one fitted, please make sure you keep it well-maintained and use it every day.
2. Keep gifts out of view
Whether wrapped or unwrapped, don't store any gifts in places where they can be easily seen or found. We understand Christmas is all about tradition, but it's very wise to avoid leaving gifts under the tree, especially if they could be seen through a window. Keeping them out of sight simply removes the temptation for a potential criminal to try their luck.
3. Make your home look occupied
Even if you are only popping out for a couple of minutes, taking simple measures such as leaving a light or radio on will help create the illusion someone is home. Timer switches are great tools for showing activity within the home by switching lights on and off. These are widely available and can be purchased from a local electrical or DIY store.
4. Lock all of your windows and doors
We've all had that scary thought... "Did I forget to lock the front door?" For something so obvious, it's surprisingly easy to forget, especially around Christmas time when there's so much to think about! Remember to double-check that all your doors and windows are secure before leaving home. If you're displaying Christmas lights, avoid leaving windows or doors ajar to run cables outside.
5. Don't overshare on Social Media
Avoid sharing too much information about where you are, when you're going, or what you've got. Don't 'check-in' and be careful when posting pictures. Burglars are increasingly using sites such as Facebook and Twitter to identify potential targets.
6. Make sure someone's home to take deliveries
A growing percentage of people now choose do their Christmas shopping online; it's certainly a great way to avoid the queues! If you're expecting a delivery, make sure someone is there to receive it. Don't give permission for packages to be left on the door step where an opportunist thief could quickly grab an early present of their own.
7. Dispose of wrapping and branded packaging
Leaving empty boxes and branded packaging outside your home could advertise to a burglar all the lovely gifts you have received this Christmas. Package them down as small as you can and put them in black bags to disguise what they are.
8. Keep receipts in a safe place
It's a good idea to keep any gift receipts in safe location. As well as allowing you to exchange your gifts, this keeps them out of the hands of potential thieves. If a thief was able to stumble across your receipts, this could enable them to return what you've bought in exchange for cash. After Christmas, shred any unwanted receipts and don't put them in the normal rubbish.
9. Make friends with your neighbours
Planning on being away from home this Christmas? Try asking a neighbour to keep an eye on your home whilst you're not there. Just by taking in the post and opening and shutting curtains for you, it can help to prevent unwanted attention from prying eyes.
10. Postpone regular deliveries
Avoid making it obvious you're away by temporarily cancelling your usual milk and paper deliveries. These can stack up outside the front door, highlighting the fact no-one is around.
11. Light up dark areas around your home
Burglars don't want to be caught in the act, so installing lighting outside your home is another great deterrent. Security lights can be programmed to switch on when movement is detected. Good lighting can also help you feel safer when leaving or returning home after dark. Focus on entry points such as front and back doors, patio doors, sheds, garages and passageways.
12. Don't forget about fire safety
Your home may be filled with flashing lights and musical ornaments at this time of year. As lovely as they are, ensure they are turned off when you are out of the house. This eliminates the possibility of fires caused by faulty electrical items. To lower the risk of an accidental fire caused by a naked flame, avoid leaving candles unguarded and make sure they are not positioned on wooden or flammable surfaces.
Can you help us #PinchTheGrinch?
Here at Allcooper, we specialise in helping you to protect your home and stop the real-life Grinch from stealing your Christmas.
However, beating burglars isn't just about putting an alarm on your house. Stopping burglary from happening is about keeping an eye out for your friends and neighbours, and helping the Police catch and identify the individuals taking the law into their own hands.
Our #PinchTheGrinch campaign aims to highlight the importance of home security and how to make life difficult for thieves. We also want to raise awareness of the ways you can report any signs of suspicious activity to the Police.
Reporting signs of crime
If you have information about a crime, or you are concerned about criminal activity in your neighbourhood, please consider using one of the services below to report what you know.
Police Emergency Phone Number - 999
Only use this number if a crime is in progress, life is at risk or someone has been injured.
Police Non-Emergency Phone Number - 101
Use this number to report non-urgent information about a crime to the Police. Before getting in touch, the Police advise for you to have the following details ready, if possible:
> The date and time of the crime
> Unique details of all items stolen (eg specific marks or colours, a registration number, a phone’s IMEI number)
> Contact details of anyone who witnessed the crime
> Information about any evidence that could help the investigation
Reporting Crime Online
You are also able to report a crime online via your local Police force's website. This will involve filling in an online form which you can submit. As an example, here is a link for reporting crime to Gloucestershire Constabulary.
*This link is for Gloucestershire Constabulary for example purposes. Please always use the website of your local force.
In the UK, you can also report crimes anonymously through the charity, Crimestoppers. You can either call 0800 555 111 or report information about a crime via their website. The thought of disclosing your personal details when reporting a crime can be daunting for some. By using Crimestoppers, you don't have to reveal any of your personal details. The information you provide is passed directly to the Police to help with their investigations. The smallest piece of information be all it takes to solve a crime. Visit the Crimestoppers website for more information.
Sign up for Your Community Alerts
This fantastic service provided by Gloucestershire Police is designed to alert you to any crimes happening in your community. It's absolutely free and simply requires a quick sign-up process on the Your Community Alerts website. You can choose to receive notifications by email or text about general or specific incidents of crime being reported. It's also another way to exchange information with your local Neighbourhood Policing team.
Find your Neighbourhood Policing Team