How to Safety-Prep Your Home for the Holidays

Most people think they know the big red flags burglars look for, and they do their best to avoid waving them. Things like turning the porch light on at night, having the neighbor pick up the newspapers whenever vacation calls and investing in a dog are all great things—but those are the oldest tricks in the book. All burglars are opportunists and many of them are pretty smart. They don’t want to be caught, so those things that go bump in the night? They probably really are foundations settling and raccoons scrounging for food.

According to The State of the US, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, the vast majority of burglaries happen between 6am and 6pm on weekdays. In other words, burglars keep the same hours as many Americans because they have no desire to tip toe around while the homeowners are sleeping. Some criminals will even scout out their territory, watching people for a few days to see what their schedule is like (and most people are very predictable). In fact, some criminals like to get as close to their mark as possible; 65 percent of burglars know their target in some capacity.

Information is Your Best Defense

Also surprising to many people is that most burglars aren’t armed. Only 12 percent of burglars carry a gun, and even fewer intend or do actually use it. More than 72 percent of burglaries happen when nobody is home, and knowing these statistics can help prepare you for a safer holiday season. The “high season” for break-ins is summer, but the winter holidays are solidly in second place. After all, who can resist the season of giving with the fancy new toys and extended vacations leading to empty homes?

“Showboating” is a siren’s call that opportunist burglars just can’t resist. If you display a Christmas tree surrounded by presents in the front window, leave the box for the new 3-D TV in the driveway well before recycling day or otherwise show off your goodies, you’re tempting criminals who may be strolling by. Don’t make your home and/or possessions look too fantastic, because you may do more than inspire envy in the neighbors.

The Basics

If you’re leaving for a winter holiday and live in a snowy region, your car might give you away. Park it in the garage or have a neighbor drive it around the block once per day to ensure tire marks are fresh. Criminals can easily spot lighting systems that are on a timer, and they’re going to know you’re not actually watching TV 24/7. Choose a home automated system that mimics real human activity or, better yet, get a trusted house sitter.

There’s nothing more stunning and full of holiday cheer than a front door with stained glass, but that’s an invitation for disaster. Most burglars aren’t MacGyver and actually just stroll in through an unlocked door. Invest in solid core doors for all exterior entrances, as well as a deadbolt with a kickplate. These options are relatively affordable and the surest ways to ward of a thief so you can make the most of the holiday cheer.

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