It’s officially the Holiday Season! The season of holiday lights, holiday shopping, holiday parties, and…
As you travel to visit family and friends this holiday season, be aware that the high rate of travel also leads to a spike in home robberies.
Here are some tips for keeping your home and possessions safe while you’re away:
- Install a quality home security system with burglary monitoring AND fire protection: The best defense against home robberies is a working security system. Be sure that you test your system before you head out of town to make sure you’re good to go. Also, double check that your security system has fire alarm capabilities. A fire doubles in size every 30 seconds, so the quicker your system can alert authorities, the better
- Keep your valuables out of clear site: Can you see your plasma TV from your front windows? Do you keep any jewelry near a window in your bedroom? Have a sweet sound system for all to see in your living room? Walk around the outside of your house and notice what you can see just by looking in. Before you leave town, move as many valuable out of view as possible. Close the doors of your entertainment center and put all jewlery in a locked, secure location
- Make mail & newspaper arrangements: Piled up newspapers and mail are a huge tip-off to would-be robbers. Before you leave town, either stop your mail and paper service or ask a trusted neighbor to pick them up for you. If you have a reliable neighbor you trust, this is a better option than alerting the post office that you are out of town. Again, the less people who know you are away, the better
- Take stock of your yard: Don’t keep any valuable sporting or gardening equipment outside while you’re out of town. Move everything that you can indoors or into the garage. Also, be aware of what you leave out by the trash. If you receive an expensive item, like a TV or a computer, for Christmas, don’t just leave the box by the trash- that’s advertising an expensive item in your home. Instead, break it down and bring it to recycling
- Remove a burglar’s cover: Tall and overgrown trees and shrubs are welcome hiding spots for criminals. Cut away any tall tree branches that reach upper story windows and protect against attacks from above. That doesn’t mean you need to cut down every plant in your yard. Just keep things manicured
- Do NOT broadcast your plans: No matter how tempting it is to brag about your upcoming getaway to your social media friends, keep your plans off the internet (until you return and show off your amazing pictures, of course!). The fewer people who know that you are gone, the better. Also, do not change your answering machine to say you are out of town. You never know who may ring you up while you’re gone, and you don’t want strangers to know that you are out
- Make your house look ‘lived in’: Take steps to make it look like someone is at your house. Here are some ideas:
- Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway. Anyone watching your house will see a car coming and going and be less likely to realize you’re away
- Ask someone to shovel your drive if it snows while you’re away
- Install outdoor and indoor lighting systems. Motion-sensor varieties are good for outdoor areas because they can stop robbers from using the cover of darkness to commit crimes. Timer varieties are good for indoors because lights turning on and off helps maintain the appearance that someone is home
- Double check your locks & entrances: Go around your house and check every door, lock, deadbolt and window. Make sure you have a solid perimeter. If your deadbolts are 10-15 years old, you need to make sure they can still withstand force. If not, replace them before you leave. For windows, look into using a dowel rod (long, skinny sticks sold at the hardware store). You can wedge them into the window frame to reinforce windows and give them more strength, as robbers cannot force windows open with a rod in place
- Don’t leave any hidden spare keys: Keep a secret key hidden on your property in case you or a family member gets locked out? Most people do. And that’s exactly why you should make sure you do not leave that key on your property when out of town. Robbers will check under rocks and around property for keys left ‘hidden’
- Tell neighbors you trust or law enforcement that you are leaving: While it’s important to minimize the number of people who know you are gone, do alert neighbors whom you trust or members of your trusted neighborhood watch program. That way, they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity at your house. Also, look up the non-emergency number for your police department and let them know you will be leaving town.
- Be aware: Pay attention around your neighborhood. Is someone going door to door asking if a particular person is home? Has a car been parked suspiciously? These are both signs of people checking for unoccupied homes. Be alert to any behavior that is out of the ordinary and be sure to alert local law enforcement.
And last, but certainly not least, travel safely and ENJOY your holiday season with your loved ones!