‘Tis the season to be jolly — and to be burgled.
The holidays are upon us, which means we have good reason to be merry. But unfortunately, this time of year is also notorious for incidents involving home burglaries and vehicle break-ins. A CNN report found that burglaries in California were 18% higher during December 2011 than other months of the year, while burglaries in Philadelphia the following year spiked during December. This trend can be seen all across the country. But why are home break-ins so common during this time of year?
In a typical year, people are more likely to spend time outside the house — whether it’s for a holiday trip or running errands before Christmas. Whether you’re among the U.S. homeowners who paid $88 billion in community association assessments in 2016 or you live in an area without an HOA or gated protection, an obviously empty home is going to attract criminal activity. What’s more, thieves place their bets that expensive gifts will be stored in these homes — which means they’ll have their pick of the loot.
Of course, homes aren’t the only targets for criminal activity during the holidays. Vehicles are also vulnerable to break-ins. And since many of us will be using our cars to run holiday errands and finish our Christmas shopping, there’s a good chance that some valuable items might be stored inside. In Texas, officials are urging drivers to protect their vehicles this holiday, as the state saw 200,000 cars burglarized and 77,000 more stolen last year. All told, $1.5 billion in losses were reported as a result of these vehicular crimes. And while 77% of cars are in need of maintenance or repairs, a junky car won’t deter would-be criminals who want to get their hands on pricey gifts or vehicle components.
Despite the fact that there were an estimated 780,000 police officers working in the U.S. during 2012, that doesn’t mean that law enforcement officers will be able to prevent a burglary or break-in before it happens. It’s often up to homeowners and motorists to do whatever they can to protect their property.
To deter a residential break-in, experts recommend that you keep a light on, use a safe to hide valuables, install a security alarm system, lock all doors and windows, and consider keeping your Christmas tree hidden away from street view. If you do need to leave home for an extended period of time, arrange to have your mail held and refrain from posting about your trip on social media until you return. After the holidays are over, cut up boxes from any expensive electronics to conceal the fact that they’re now in your home.
When it comes to your car, the main piece of advice experts share is to remove all valuables from your car and to hide away any electronics or other personal items from view. You should always park in a well-lit area — and if you have access to a garage at home, use it. If you need to park on the street or in an unsecured driveway, keep a light on at night. Never leave your vehicle running while you aren’t inside, even to grab something quickly. When you get into your car after a shopping trip, lock the doors immediately and don’t dawdle in the parking area. If your car has an alarm, always arm your vehicle.
Considering the current state of the economy, it’s not surprising that criminal activity is becoming more prevalent. And as the holidays grow closer, it’s important to protect yourself and your possessions. By keeping a sharp eye out for suspicious behavior and doing everything possible to safeguard both your home and your vehicle, you’ll be able to enjoy a safer and more secure Christmas season.