Amid the joy that the festive time brings, there's a less joyous trend that surges — and we're not talking about our usual increase in waistlines or credit card balances. Unfortunately, break-ins and burglaries generally see a 20% uptick over the festive period in the U.S. and the UK.
That’s according to a 2022 study by Porch Research, which found that there are around 83,000 burglaries during the holiday period, accounting for over 8% of all crimes committed throughout the year. And while you’d not expect it, it’s not only Santa that might enter your house on Christmas Eve. The study found that almost 5,000 homes were burgled either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, with roughly 2,700 break-ins taking place on the 24th.
Clearly, the time for festive cheers is also a time that you should be super cautious about how you safeguard your property and belongings. With that in mind, we've asked the experts to uncover several security tips to follow, and help prevent burglaries this Christmas.
1. Light up outdoor areas
Well-lit areas are much more likely to deter potential burglars. For one, good lighting makes it easier for neighbors, passersby, or one of the best security cameras to see anyone attempting anything sketchy, since burglars typically prefer to operate in the darkness where they are less likely to be observed.
While it’s not economical to have exterior lights on all night, Lucy Trevelyan, security expert from Toolstation, recommends that homeowners invest in motion sensor lights, which are only activated when they sense movement. This, she says, could help deter opportunists if they think they’ve been spotted lurking outside.
“Internal lights can also be placed on a plug-in timer that programs electrical devices to automatically come on at certain times - a great way to make it look like somebody’s in the house while you’re away,” she adds. Alternatively, some of the best smart plugs can also be programmed to turn your lights on and off at random times, making it look like you're home.
2. Lock your doors
It might sound like a bit of an obvious one, but ensuring your door remains locked at all times is essential in preventing break-ins. “Walk-in burglaries are more frequent than you’d think, so get into the habit of locking your door every time you enter or leave the house,” says British home security specialist, Ultion.
Switching out your door lock for a one of the best smart locks can also help, as they will automatically lock themselves when your door is closed. They can also alert you if your door was opened, and some even have built-in alarms that will sound a siren if they're forced open.
3. Have a security system that is visible
A professionally monitored home security system is a significant deterrent for would-be burglars. The best home security cameras usually come with 24/7 monitoring and can notify authorities in the event of a break-in. However, experts say that having one of the best outdoor security cameras on the exterior of your house is more effective.
“Having a visible security alarm on the exterior of a house is more likely to deter intruders rather than it being hidden inside the property,” explains Trevelyan. “This can be as simple as adding an alarm box to the front of your house.”
Cameras like this eufy Security, eufyCam 2C Pro Wireless Home Security ($89, Amazon), includes advanced night vision capabilities, motion detection and more.
4. Don’t hide a spare key outside
You might think that locking yourself out can be easily avoided by hiding a spare key under a nearby rock, welcome mat or a nearby plant pot, but these are also places that a thief is likely to look before they attempt to break in.
“If you are worried about being locked out, or want to just make it easier if you’re having someone to look after your home while you’re away, consider installing a key-safe somewhere out of sight of your front door,” recommends a representative from Express Bi-Folds, a maker of custom doors and windows. “The safe should be security approved and accessible with a code making it a great place to put a spare key.”
5. Install a video doorbell
Not only are the best video doorbells useful for when homeowners are away on holiday, but they also come in use for day-to-day use as individuals are able to see who is at the door, from the postman to a nosy neighbour.
Ring is a good option, and doesn’t have to break the bank. The brand now has some very accessibly priced options in their range, such as the older but still very competent Ring Video Doorbell Gen 2, which is currently on sale for just under $60. Bargain!
To help you decide on which video doorbell to buy, check out Ring vs. Nest: Ring Video Doorbell and Nest Doorbell (battery) compared.
6. Hide valuables out of sight
We’re told over and over again never to leave items out in full view through a window. This might pique the interests of opportunists passing by and peering in. Unfortunately, this is common during Christmas time - especially for those who want to show off their trees.
“You should try to avoid putting your Christmas tree in front of a window because - while having wrapped presents under the tree looks nice - it only shows thieves exactly where potentially expensive, new and resellable items are,” notes Trevelyan.
7. Schedule deliveries accordingly
One tip that you might not have thought of is benign on top of your expected parcel deliveries. Not just because they could be stolen if left by your door or on your porch while you’re out, but because a parcel left on the front step is a telltale sign that the house is unoccupied.
“Around Christmas, these deliveries can pile up,” says Trevelyan. “Where possible, schedule deliveries to arrive when you’re at home, or get them delivered to your place of work. If you’re away overnight, it’s also worth temporarily cancelling things like milk and newspaper deliveries.
8. Don't post holiday plans on social media
Lots of evidence suggests that thieves are increasingly turning to social media for information about homeowners who are away. While most holiday-goers love to shout about their travels, this is also advertising an empty home to a wide audience of people. The safer option is to wait until you’re home before posting.
“It’s easy for someone with basic knowledge of social media to identify people, find out their addresses and figure out where the picture was taken and almost anything else that’s ever been posted publicly,” says Home security expert from Fantastic Services, Ivelin Hristov. “Even if you have the highest level of security on your social media, posting any type of information is never recommended.”
9. Arrange for a house sitter
Last but not least, if you plan to be away during the holidays, consider arranging for a house sitter. A trusted friend or family member staying at your home is one way. Or you could pay for a professional house sitting service, that could also look after your pets while away.
This helps maintain normal activity in the home, such as lights turning on and off, and movement inside the house. This can be a powerful deterrent to burglars.
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Lee Bell is a freelance journalist and copywriter specialising in technology, health and fitness and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space. From national newspapers to specialist-interest magazines and digital titles, Lee has written for some of the world’s most respected publications during his 12-plus years as a journalist.