'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring... except for a burglar!

But the season of goodwill need not be a free-for-all for petty criminals if you take some simple preventive measures to avoid giving opportunist thieves an open invitation into your home.

Although the number of burglaries in the St Albans district are significantly less than this time last year, police are warning residents to still remain vigilant through Operation Guardian Christmas.

St Albans district Det Insp Ady Lysak said: “Burglars have recently tried to gain access to the rear of properties. Please make sure gates are locked and cannot be opened from the outside, do not leave refuse bins or anything else nearby that someone may use to help them climb over fences and consider investing in security lighting and cameras in your back garden.”

“Opportunist burglars will find the path of least resistance so if they see a home without lights on and no alarms, they may try their luck there rather than a home which has CCTV or a doorbell camera or timer switches.

“We have robust plans in place which includes proactively targeting people who are known to us for burglaries but we cannot be on every street 24 hours a day.

"It’s very easy to make sure your home looks uninviting for a burglar.

"Close and securely lock all windows and doors when you go out, invest in timer switches, alarms, CCTV and doorbell cameras – anything to deter a burglar. A gravel drive is also a good deterrent and if you are thinking of buying a dog, now is a good time!”

He added: “I’d also remind residents to look out for their neighbours, especially if they are elderly and if you do see someone acting suspiciously, please call us on 101 – if you think a crime is in progress dial 999. We would rather be called to a call with good intent than miss the opportunity to catch a burglar red-handed.”