The holiday season brings joy, excitement, and anticipation, but it also has a less than savory side. As people order packages and travel for extended periods of time, criminals recognize an opportunity to attack. And it’s for this very reason that experts typically anticipate record numbers during the month of December.
While most people consider the holiday season to be the merriest time of the year, burglars have a knack for turning this happy, cozy time into a nightmare for homeowners.
Research shows that the period between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day has the second-highest burglary rate of the year. In some cities, burglary rates jump as much as 18 to 35 percent. This is true for a number of reasons, including:
- People often travel for extended time during the holidays, which leaves homes vacant and vulnerable.
- Homeowners are often distracted during the holidays, which leads them to forget about basic security responsibilities (like locking doors).
- There’s an uptick in online shopping in a very concentrated period of time, which causes packages to pile up on doorsteps.
- Burglars know that expensive, unopened gifts are often found under Christmas trees, which allows them to quickly burglarize homes and get away in seconds.
High burglary rates during the holiday season have been common for decades – and experts don’t anticipate this year being any different. Unprepared homeowners will be targeted.
While burglary rates are increased during this time of year, you don’t have to be a target. There are practical steps you can take to proactively fend off crime on your property. Here are some suggestions from law enforcement and others in the security field:
- Stay Off Social Media
In the past, burglars have made use of obituaries in order to take advantage of grieving families attending funerals. Now, there is a new trend: targeting people who post travel plans on social media.
That’s right – criminals will use social media to keep an eye out for when people travel and for how long they’re gone. They can then cross-reference names with property records and find out exactly when to strike for the least amount of resistance.
If you’ll be traveling out of town this holiday season, don’t broadcast it to the world. Even if your profiles are private, it’s possible that one of your followers could actually be spying on you. Wait until you get home to post pictures and let people know what you did.
- Make Your House Look Occupied
If you’ll be traveling over the holidays, make sure your house looks occupied in your absence. Criminals target homes that appear empty, and you greatly increase your odds of being burglarized if you don’t do something to make it look like you’re home. Here are some suggestions:
- Use automatic timers to turn lights on and off while you’re gone. Better yet, use smart light bulbs that you can program and control remotely from your mobile device.
- Install motion-sensing lights around the exterior of your property to dissuade trespassers from breaking in.
- Consider leaving a TV or radio on while you’re gone. The noise may be enough to deter criminals and push them away to an easier target.
- If possible keep a car in the driveway. This will create enough doubt in the minds of most burglars to dissuade them from breaking in.
- Install a motion-sensing doorbell camera that activates and sends you a notification when tripped.
- Leave your dog at the house and hire a pet sitter to check in a couple of times per day. Not only will the presence of the dog provide some protection, but having someone enter your home regularly will ward off any criminals who are watching your property.
- Keep Window Shoppers Away
Some burglars will quite literally do window shopping from home to home during the holiday season. Many families place their Christmas trees in front of street-facing windows and then pile gifts and presents underneath. This gives onlookers a chance to quickly take inventory of potential loot.
While it may look good, consider keeping your Christmas tree away from windows. And if you do put your Christmas tree near a window, place your gifts elsewhere. For additional privacy, consider installing motorized blinds, which allow you to control the visibility people have into your home with the simple touch of a button.
- Install Extra Security Measures
The more security measures you can install in and around your home, the less likely it is that you’ll be targeted. Savvy burglars are constantly looking for cameras and alarms and won’t bother with homes that have smart systems installed. Even decoy cameras can prove beneficial (but make sure they have wires and lights to make them look real).
- Don’t Leave Packages on Your Porch
According to one survey, 25 percent of Americans report having a package stolen from outside their home. And if there’s one time of year where you’re at risk of being attacked, it’s the holiday season.
During the holiday months, it usually sees a 500 percent increase in posts on its social network about missing packages, The New York Times reports. “Research commissioned by businesses that make packaging products like boxes and surveillance cameras suggests that from one-fifth to one-third of respondents have had deliveries stolen from their porches.”
There are several steps you can take to prevent packages from being lifted off your porch. For starters, you can reroute packages so that they don’t get dropped off on your porch while you’re away.
- Don’t Forget About the Garage
Most people don’t pay much attention to the garage, but this is one of the favorite entry points for burglars. Not only do many homeowners leave their garage doors unlocked, but most of today’s cars have connected openers inside. Thus, all a burglar has to do is break into a car in the driveway and they can open the garage, which provides them with cover while they break into the house.
If you’ll be traveling during the holidays, consider disconnecting your garage door opener to prevent burglars from gaining easy access.
Don’t let your guard down during the holiday season. If anything, you should be more aware of your surroundings than you are during the other 11 months of the year. Never assume that you’re immune from a break-in, simply because it’s never happened in the past. There’s always a first time and you should be as prepared as possible.Holiday Season Signals Increased Focus on Home Security