Photo Courtesy: Tom Purves
A lot of people choose to stay home over Christmas, not because they have to watch their pennies, but because they don’t want to extend an open invitation to burglars. Alas, not even houses bursting with relatives are enough to deter some criminals. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying or going, it’s worth investigating some extra security measures to keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe during the holidays.
If you’re at home
- Be smart and don’t leave your presents under the tree for days before Christmas, where every Tom, Dick and Harry walking by can see them. You’ve probably scrimped and saved all year (or racked up your credit card bills) to ensure that your kids have the latest technological devices, that your husband has the expensive new golf clubs he’s been eyeing all year and that your mother has that foot spa that she swears she’ll use. You don’t want some opportunistic so-and-so coming along and helping himself to the spoils of your labour. Bring out the presents on Christmas Eve – after you’ve closed the curtains.
- BanbridgeLeader recommends that you engrave all jewellery and valuables with your house number and post code so that they will be difficult to fence. You should also have them properly valued and insured before they are unwrapped, just in case.
- Crime Doctor says that you shouldn’t litter your pavement with empty gift boxes, especially ones that used to have televisions, PlayStation consoles and home entertainment systems, on the day after Christmas. They’re like a flashing neon sign that says to burglars, “Oy, we’ve had a bumper Christmas, come and help yourself!” Tear them up and take them to the recycling depot as soon as possible.
If you’re going away
- Try and get a house sitter. A close friend or relative that you trust is best. If everyone you know is going away, try some word-of-mouth; see if any of your friends have tried and trusted house sitters that they use, or if they’ve heard of anyone with a good reputation. House sitters are great because they come and go and provide plenty of activity. Unlike automated settings, they switch on lights and televisions at random times and they pick up your mail. Plus, they can feed your dogs and cats.
- If you can’t afford or can’t find a house sitter then automated settings are better than nothing. Ask a friendly neighbour to pick up your mail and newspapers. Don’t leave spare keys lying around, and that includes hide-a-keys. Once again, impose on a friendly neighbour and leave spare keys with them.
- Don’t advertise your plans on social networks or change the message on your answering machine. Burglars don’t need extra help finding vulnerable targets, so don’t give it to them.
- Beef up your security. If you don’t have an alarm, get one. Put sturdy locks on your windows and doors. Ensure that your burglar bars are solid. Get security gates. Install motions sensor lights. Try not to do it all at once, though. If burglars are casing a neighbourhood and they see all this extra security action going in, they’ll put two and two together and start planning their assault.
Christmas should be a time of joy, love and happiness (and presents); it shouldn’t involve tears, trauma and insurance claims. Even if you take the proper precautions there is no guarantee that your house will be 100% safe over the holidays, but you can make life it extremely difficult for anyone who wants to violate your space.
Written by Sandy Cosser on behalf of Ooba, a personal financial services provider that specializes in home finance, including bond registrations and finding competitive mortgage interest rates.