10 ways to keep burglars at bay this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 14:07 03 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:52 03 December 2019

With many homes being left vacant over the festive period, Christmas is a busy time of year for burglars. Picture: PA Photo/iStock

With many homes being left vacant over the festive period, Christmas is a busy time of year for burglars. Picture: PA Photo/iStock

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Wondering how you're going to keep your home secure over the festive season? A former burglar and a police officer share their top tips with Lisa Salmon.

Former burglar Michael Fraser. See PA Feature HOMES Security. Picture: PA Photo/ADT/Sam HoldenFormer burglar Michael Fraser. See PA Feature HOMES Security. Picture: PA Photo/ADT/Sam Holden

If you're looking forward to Christmas, bear in mind that thieves are gleefully anticipating it too - last year, there was a substantial increase in insurance claims for burglaries in winter, particularly over the Xmas period.

Halifax Home Insurance reported a 35 per cent increase in claims for forced burglary in the darker months, compared to lighter months, and as homes are often unoccupied for long periods around Christmas - when people visit family and friends - some reports suggest the rate of break-ins rises by up to 20 per cent.

Yet according to research from ADT Fire and Security (adt.co.uk), over three quarters (79 per cent) of Brits admit to inadequately protecting their homes.

National Police Chiefs' Council (npcc.police.uk) lead for burglary, Deputy Chief Constable Chris Rowley, says: "Police officers know how distressing a burglary is for victims, especially over the Christmas period. It isn't just the loss of valuable and sentimental items, but it can also leave families feeling less safe in their own home."

Here, the police share tips to prevent Christmas burglary, and former burglar Michael Fraser teams up with ADT Fire & Security, to share unexpected things that make your home vulnerable to theft.

1. Double locking is key

Just one lock on a door isn't enough - the police say it's important to use a dead or double lock on outside doors. Fraser warns that burglars can use their foot to check whether there's a dead lock on the door - if the door moves more than two millimetres, they'll know a door isn't double locked. Remember to lock doors and windows every time you leave the house, even when you're just in the garden.

The police warn householders not to leave presents under the tree, particularly if they're visible from windows or doors. Picture: PA Photo/iStockThe police warn householders not to leave presents under the tree, particularly if they're visible from windows or doors. Picture: PA Photo/iStock

2. Don't leave presents under the tree

The police warn that leaving presents under the tree is a no-no, particularly if they're visible from windows or doors.

3. Leave the lights on - mindfully

Although the police suggest leaving the lights on when you go out at night so it looks like someone's home, Fraser warns you should be mindful of what this reveals to passersby, as it can make valuable belongings more visible to thieves. That's why it's important that curtains or blinds are closed.

4. Careful disposal

Deputy Chief Constable Chris Rowley. Picture: PA Photo/Humberside PoliceDeputy Chief Constable Chris Rowley. Picture: PA Photo/Humberside Police

Dispose of present packaging carefully, as empty boxes left outside can advertise that you have new and desirable goods inside your home.

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5. Letterbox fishing

Avoid the risk of burglars stealing valuable items from your home through your letterbox, such as keys lying on the side, by fitting a cage to the inside of your letterbox, suggests Fraser.

6. Calendar caution

Appointments and festive holidays listed on calendars will give potential intruders a window of opportunity to break into your home undisturbed, Fraser points out.

Ensure such information cannot be easily viewed through a window.

7. Lock outbuildings

The police stress it's important to securely lock any sheds or garages, so thieves can't gain access to ladders and tools which they could then use to get into your home.

8. Selfie care

If a burglar has access to your name through old post or personal information, they can easily find your social media accounts too, warns Fraser.

Sharing holiday countdowns or updates while you're away is an open invitation for burglars to head into your home with the knowledge that they won't be disturbed

9. Key access

The police warn householders never to leave keys anywhere near the front door, as burglars know where to look.

If you really need to leave keys outside, so family and friends have access to your property, buy a key safe or install a keyless lock and share access.

10. Bathroom basics

Don't assume a burglary will only happen while you're out - a December 2018 Verisure UK survey found that over half of such crimes occurred when someone was at home, often when householders were either asleep or distracted. This can be when you're in the shower: Fraser says it's easy for a burglar to work out which room is the bathroom, because of the windows usually being obscured, and showering without other lights on in your home gives burglars a clear indication they'll have the time to grab some valuables - and make a quick exit - while you're working up a lather.

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