Wrap up your home this Christmas and don’t become a victim of crime

SHOPPING centres are already bustling with shoppers, office parties are being planned and Christmas music will soon be on the radio, but unfortunately, along with all the festive cheer will come an increase in burglaries.

Here, Dr Steffan George, development director of the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) – the leading trade association for the locksmithing profession – advises home owners to tighten up security in the run up to Christmas.

It’s the time of year when families are so busy ordering their turkey, buying gifts and putting up their tree that they forget all about home security.

The sad truth is that there are those who readily take advantage of the season of goodwill to all men and help themselves to gifts under the tree, leaving Christmas filled with distress and despair for many families rather than festive cheer.

The run up to Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year but as you and your family get into the festive spirit, it is crucial that you stay security aware and not cut corners with personal home security.

Homes are especially vulnerable over Christmas with expensive gifts hidden in wardrobes, away from children’s prying eyes or placed under the Christmas tree, while many homes are left unattended as families visit relatives and friends.

Be smart about how you display presents and dispose of their packaging in order to avoid becoming a victim of the steep rise in break-ins that UKCrimeStats have shown occur every year around December and leading into January.

While you are rushing around, it is more important than ever to make sure that you keep on top of your usual security routine so make sure you lock all doors and windows and set your intruder alarm.

The seasonal increase in crime can be tackled by using properly vetted, inspected and qualified professionals to help secure your home. A professional MLA-approved locksmith will be able to carry out a security assessment and advise on suitable locks, fittings and additional security, as well as providing input from a safety point of view. An expert locksmith will check your locks and, where necessary, upgrade and fit the appropriate additional security hardware.

Criminals will often actively avoid homes with visible burglar alarms as the risk of being caught is significantly increased. If a burglar enters your home, the sound of a burglar alarm can sometimes be enough to scare them out of your property. Both you and your neighbours will be alerted of a burglar’s presence, giving you time to call the authorities. Dusk to dawn or sensor lighting to the front and back door of your home will also deter potential thieves, while installing CCTV cameras can also act as a deterrent.

Try to plan your decorations so that gifts can’t be seen easily from outside by placing your tree away from windows, especially those looking onto busy streets. It is too tempting for burglars to smash the window and grab the wrapped packages.

Burglars look for signs that a home is unoccupied like piled up newspapers and advertising fliers, milk on the doorstep or the absence cars on the driveway. So make sure you stop your milk and newspaper orders or ask family or neighbours to pick them up.

If possible leave a car in the driveway as this helps to distract a potential burglar when he is making the choice of which home to target. A burglar walking down a street is more likely to try and have a look through the window of a home with no car outside or in the driveway.

It is always advisable to perform an assessment of the exterior of your property as appearances can act as a deterrent against crime. Any kind of visible disrepair like broken windows will stand out to would-be thieves, and could act as a marker identifying your property as a potential target.

Although your bank account may be stretched at this time of year, it is worth ensuring that any security features you invest in are of good quality, saving you money in the long-term and increasing the longevity. For a list of security products that have been independently tested to help secure your home, visit: www.soldsecure.com.

Lock any tools and items like ladders that can be used to break into a property securely away. It is also worth considering when your locks were last replaced, where past owners or tenants may still have access to your home and if anyone might have copied keys without your knowledge. If you’re worried, ask a professional locksmith to change your locks.
Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance so don’t hide spare keys under rocks or flowerpots, or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to a trusted neighbour.

If you plan to visit family over Christmas or escape the cold weather and take a holiday, make sure you don’t publicise the fact on Facebook or Twitter. If your account isn’t protected, potentially thousands of strangers can see everything you post and will know your house is empty.

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