Home Security Tips For The Holidays

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The holidays are a time of peace, joy and wonderful family memories. But with all the decorating, shopping, gift giving and celebrating, attention to home security often slips just when it is needed the most.

According to the FBI, close to 400,000 burglaries take place in the U.S. between November and December each year. Burglars like a sure thing, and a house filled with expensive gifts and a lack of security is a temptation they might not pass over.

Remember that criminals shop for the holidays too; they just do their shopping by stealing what they want. Don't let your home become a statistic. Take steps to lower the risk of your house becoming a crime scene during the holidays.

Alarms and Lights

The long nights of winter provide hours more of darkness to cover a burglar's misdeeds. Discourage would-be prowlers with some easy steps.

  • Your home should always be well lit around the perimeters, and it's even better if you have motion-activated lights that can scare a burglar away before he gets close.
  • Consider an alarm system linked to a security company's central monitoring station. Display a sticker or notice with the alarm company's name in a prominent location near the front of your home.
  • Don't underestimate the power of a dog as a burglar-deterrent. Thieves want to make a quick, quiet entry and exit, and a barking dog, even a small one, is likely to make them think twice about approaching your home.
  • Keep your car alarm set when your car is parked in front of your home. It takes a professional thief just minutes to break into your car and steal your possessions.
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When You Are Away From Home

An empty house is very attractive to criminals. Don't make it obvious you are away from home by leaving newspapers or mail piling up in front of the house, trashcans left by the curb after pick-up day or a driveway empty for days.

  • Ask a neighbor or friend to bring mail, packages and newspapers inside. Have them park their car in your driveway periodically while you are gone.
  • Have your neighbor return your trashcans to their normal spot after collection day.
  • Use timers to set lights to go on and off in at least two areas of your home during the evening and early morning hours.
  • Pay a neighborhood child to shovel snow from your front walk and driveway while you are gone.
  • Don't leave your house key hidden under a rock or the front mat. Burglars will look there first. Give the spare key to the person watching your house while you are gone.
  • Don't use social media sites to announce to hundreds of friends that you will be gone on vacation and your house left vacant. Depending on your privacy settings, you might be announcing your plans to strangers looking for empty houses to target.
  • Have garden services continue as usual during your vacation. An overgrown lawn announces that no one is home.
  • Keep shades and blinds partly open, or ask a neighbor to open and shut them each day. Leaving all your home's windows covered indicates that the house is empty.

Don't Flaunt Big-Ticket Purchases

Big-ticket items like laptops, televisions, video game consoles and music systems are wonderful gifts to find under the tree, but burglars like gifts too, especially if they are taking them from someone else.

  • Don't leave valuables where they can be seen through windows. Avoid piling stacks of gifts underneath a Christmas tree displayed in the front window of your home.
  • Put away wrapped gifts, boxes clearly indicating expensive electronic items and other valuables before guests arrive for an open-house party.
  • Avoid leaving wrapped gifts, bags from shopping trips or big-ticket boxes in your car. Bring them inside as soon as you are home.
  • Crush large boxes from expensive items and push them all the way into your trashcan, rather than leaving them folded on top or sticking out of the can. Those boxes will catch the eye of a crook.
  • Don't announce expensive purchases on social media sites.

Basic Home Security

You should always be aware of basic steps to keeping your home secure.

  • Don't invite burglars in by keeping gates, windows or doors open or unlocked.
  • Keep bushes near windows and the front entry trimmed so they can't be used for concealment.
  • Vary your routine occasionally by leaving for work or coming home at a different time.
  • Secure your doors with a good quality deadbolt. Reinforce sliding patio doors with a patio bar or even a broomstick or two-by-four.
  • Keep your home's address clearly displayed with reflective numbers on the curb or front of the house. This makes it easy for police or emergency responders to quickly find your home if there is an emergency.
  • Take photos of valuables, and write down serial numbers. This may be the only way to identify your belongings if they are stolen.

The holidays are a time for joy, not heartbreak. Keep your home safe and secure by taking basic security measures, and keep the bad guys outside where they belong.

Last Updated: October 16, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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