Home security tips for the festive season

Christmas is coming and so is the need to be extra vigilant and secure your home against thieves. Sharon Dale reports.

As the weather turns cold and presents begin to pile up underneath the Christmas tree, the number of burglaries in UK homes starts to rise.

The festive period can be a bonanza for thieves so it pays to take precautions. Many of the crimes are opportunistic, rather than carefully planned.

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Police UK says homes with no security measures in place are five times more likely to be burgled than those with simple security measures, such as good window locks and strong deadlocks on doors.

A spokesperson says: “In most burglaries, the criminals break into the house or flat through the door, either by forcing the lock or kicking it in. So make sure your doors are strong and secure. Consider fitting a bar for extra strength; a locksmith can advise you on how best to do it.

“Glass panels on doors are particularly vulnerable. If you have one on your door you could replace it with laminated glass, which is stronger. You can also buy a film in a DIY store that you can stick over the glass to make it harder to break.”

Other advice includes:

*Hide all keys, including car keys, out of sight and away from the letterbox. A device could be used to hook keys through the letterbox.

*Secure bikes by locking them to an immovable object inside a locked shed or garage and improve natural surveillance at the front of your property i.e. trim high hedges.

*Think about installing a visible burglar alarm as part of a suite of prevention measures and have good outside lighting.

*Keep ladders and tools stored away; don't leave them outside where they could be used to break into your home and mark your valuables with your postcode and house number.

*Register your postcode marked valuables for free at www.immobilise.com, which will increase your chances of getting them back if they are recovered by the police.

If you are going away over the festive period, Police UK suggest you make your home home look like someone is living in it.

You should use automatic timer-switches to turn your lights and radios on when it goes dark. Cancel any newspaper or milk deliveries and use the Royal Mail's keepsafe service, which will keep your mail for up to two months while you're away. You can also ask trusted neighbours to open and close your curtains and even park a car on your driveway.

While it's tempting to share your pictures, avoid posting anything that suggests you are on holiday on social networking sites - burglars can use the information on there to their advantage.

Finally, Police UK say be vigilant against distraction burglaries.If you're not sure who is at your door, don't open it. Check the identity of the caller by calling the company they are claiming to be from. Do not use any telephone numbers provided by the caller as they may be bogus.

Dr Steffan George, Managing Director of the Master Locksmiths Association, also has some timely advice. He says: “There are a number of things homeowners can do in order to protect their property and valuables.

“In matters of security, it's always important to take professional advice and use third party approved products, as well as meeting any insurance requirements necessary.

“By implementing some basic security measures, you will not only help to protect your family and add value to a property, but you will prevent potential financial and emotional costs as well.”

The MLA has these tips:

*Give the impression someone is in. With the majority of break-ins committed by burglars who live nearby. Thieves will notice the only house on the street with no lights on and no Christmas lights twinkling in the windows.

Investing in timer plugs for your lights will make burglars think twice before trying their luck.

*Do not be tempted to run cables for outdoor lights through partially open windows.

*Invest in alarms and CCTV as they have never been easier to install. Many systems now allowing you to login via your smart phone from wherever you are in the world. It has also been proven that homes with security systems are 300 per cent less likely to be burgled than those without.

*Keep gifts out of sight. While most of us love nothing more than to show off our decorating prowess by exhibiting our Christmas tree and the wrapped presents underneath, this can be a tempting window shopping opportunity for thieves. So, consider keeping presents hidden away from” the Grinch”. It may also stop you feeling tempted to have a sneaky peak before the 25th.

*Review your home security in the run-up to Christmas and also make sure to check your home insurance documents to ensure everything is in working order and adequate before the festive season starts in earnest.

*Check that all locks on doors and windows are correctly fitted and functioning.

*For MLA-approved locksmiths visit www.locksmiths.co.uk