If you’re like most, you probably celebrate the holidays by traveling to see friends and family or attending festive parties. While you likely see this ritual as a thoughtful, caring routine filled with cheer and goodwill, burglars view it as the perfect time to break in and grab some loot. Thieves know that most homes are packed with valuable gifts during the holidays, and they’re also aware that people are usually busy with shopping and events, leaving their houses unattended. If you’re concerned about your home’s security this holiday season, use these tips to keep your residence safe.
Prepare your home for your absence
The holidays are such a busy, hectic season that travel plans often sneak up on you. But simply leaving your house for a few days without taking the proper steps to prepare it could put you at risk for experiencing a break-in. According to Crime Doctor, thieves look for certain telltale signs that homeowners are gone, like piles of newspapers and mail and outdoor lights that are left on 24/7. If you’ll be visiting loved ones for more than a day or two, consider temporarily halting your mail delivery or asking a neighbor to clear your stoop once a day. Purchase a timer that can switch lights on and off at time you normally would if you were home.
“Don’t advertise that you’ll be out of town.”
Additionally, don’t overtly advertise that you’ll be out of town, explained This Old House. Because you’re excited about traveling, it may be tempting to post details of your trip to social media, but try to keep these pictures and updates to a minimum. Even your seemingly private accounts may be accessible to burglars looking for their next targets.
Don’t display gifts in windows
Many people put their Christmas trees in windows, as viewing the sparkling lights from the street can be spectacular. However, it’s a good idea to keep presents and other valuables hidden from public view. Not only does displaying gifts let burglars know that your home has plenty of items to steal, but it also tempts them to break in by smashing windows, which can cause another headache for you as a homeowner. Instead, consider setting up your tree and gifts somewhere that can’t be seen from the outside.
Be creative when hiding spare keys
While burglars will use many methods to break into homes, they would of course prefer to walk right in without smashing a window.If you hide spare keys in obvious places, you may actually be making life easier for thieves who want to steal your belongings. If you currently tuck a key under mats, inside pots or yard decorations or somewhere on the door itself, you’re increasing your risk of having a break-in. Consider simply issuing keys to those who may need them and forgoing the concept of a spare, or give your extra copy to a neighbor to look after.
Get rid of boxes
If you bought or received any big-ticket items for the holidays, like satellite TV, smartphones or computers, you should be vigilant about effectively discarding their packages. Putting wrappings outside near your trash means burglars can see them and infer that your home would make an excellent target, so be sure to completely break down boxes and keep labels hidden. If your family received gifts like bikes or toys that you would normally store outside, consider keeping them in your basement or garage for the duration of the holiday season, suggested security expert Robert Siciliano.
Update your alarm
Of course, one of the best ways to safeguard your house against burglars is to make sure your alarm system is up to date and working efficiently. If you recently moved homes, you may need to set up a new alarm program. Because you’re so busy around the holidays, have someone else handle this job so you don’t have to worry. If you’ve been using the same system for years, be sure to call your provider and let them know if you’ll be out of town so they can be on high alert.
Reinforce doors and windows
When entering homes, burglars look for weak spots in doors and windows. Even if all your portals are locked they may still be easy entry points if they aren’t properly reinforced. If any doors or windows have cracks or damage, be sure to replace them with newer, more secure models.
Some people run their outdoor Christmas light cords through windows or doors so they can be plugged into indoor outlets. While this technique might allow you to create a spectacular display of lights, it also means you’re creating gaps in your entry points that burglars can take advantage of. If you can’t illuminate your home without the help of indoor outlets, you may need to forgo the outdoor decor.