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It's cold outside... but that won't stop thieves

16th December 2016

It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid, as Band Aid told us in 1984. And then again in 1989. And then again in 2004. And then in 2014...well, basically they told us it a lot. And you have to admire their positive mental attitude. Especially given that home insurance claims for burglary rise by 25% every Christmas time. December can be rich pickings for burglars - sadly it's not just the bearded old man dressed in red trying to get into your house at this time of year.

In the lead up to Christmas, many homes will be fortunate enough to fill with high-value gifts and expensive gadgets. An exciting time for the intended recipients but sadly also for the potential burglar.  Opportunist thieves thrive at this time of year, not only with gifts aplenty, but also knowing many houses will be left unattended in the evening for Christmas parties, family visits, or winter getaways.  However, there a few ways you can reduce the risk of the anti-Santa Clauses ruining your Christmas, and to keep those presents safe.

1. Disguise your surprise!

Firstly, where are you keeping those presents? Don't leave them on display - either in your car or your home. If your tree is right next to your window, surrounded by gifts, this will be quite the temptation to the neighbourhood burglar.  It's also not a good idea to leave them in sheds or garages. Whilst hiding gifts here may help keep Christmas Day surprises away from the kids, sheds and garages are much easier targets to burglars than houses.

2. All things bright and beautiful can be the key to breaking in

Next, do you have decorations on your roof, exterior walls, or in your garden? They may look pretty but where are they plugged in? If they lead through slightly open windows to power sockets inside, beware - this will be an easy route in for any burglar. Where possible, use an exterior socket - an electrician will be able to fit this relatively cheaply if you do not currently have one.

3. Don't give thieves a heads up where your packages are

Expecting a last minute delivery from Amazon or some other retailer? Be careful of leaving notes for couriers saying that no one's in - they're not the only ones that will see these notes. If possible, make sure you've sent instructions about where to leave parcels if you're out in advance.

4. Act like you're stuck at home

If you're going away for Christmas, ensure this fact is as well-disguised as possible. Invest in electric timers to turn lights on and off automatically.  Give a neighbour a spare key, and ask them to help keep an eye on the house, picking up any mail on the doorstep (always a giveaway that the owners are away). You can reward them by letting them park in your driveway over Christmas - that way they get extra space and it also makes it look as if someone's at home.

5. All I want for Christmas is for you to be subtle

It's Boxing Day and all the presents have been distributed. Now it's time to dispose of those boxes and packaging. Do this as understatedly as possible. Leaving huge boxes for Playstations, iPods, or televisions poking out of your recycling box is quite the lure for those looking for an ill-gotten post-Christmas bonus, and will give them added incentive to make your house the target. Break down the packaging and maybe even have a festive trip to the rubbish tip  - it'll help pass the time in that inbetweeny stage of the last week of December.

Hope these tips haven't put a dampener on your Christmas preparations! The majority of houses will, of course, have an incident-free Christmas, at least in terms of no break-ins - I can't speak for what will happen when Brexit Uncle Bob and Bremain Uncle Peter encounter each other after a few egg nogs on Christmas evening! But whatever you're up to, and whatever family strife you may encounter, here's wishing you a peaceful and very merry Christmas and all the best for 2017. May the New Year bring happy, healthy and crime-free days to you all.

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