Tips on how to burglar-proof your home
Bumbling Christmas burglars are an American cinema staple. And for good reason.
Police and home-security experts say they see a spike in residential break-ins and thefts during the holiday season.
“The holidays provide opportunities for criminal activity,” Denver Police Department spokesman Doug Schepman said.
Homes left empty provide ideal conditions for burglars seeking an easier break-in, Schepman said. The holidays also bring a surge in mail theft.
It’s difficult to prevent being burglarized, but Schepman and private security experts say there are simple steps homeowners can take to reduce the attractiveness of their homes to thieves.
“Survey the perimeter of your house and imagine you’re a crook. How would you break in?” said Sofia Aguilar, a 22-year-veteran of the security industry and co-owner of A-1 Security Systems in Denver.
Since Thanksgiving, so-called porch bandits have made off with packages left on doorsteps at a rate of about one per day, according to Denver police. Before then, since January, an average of two to three packages were reported stolen each week. Police and security professionals recommend sending packages to an office or closely tracking them online to make sure someone is present when they arrive.
“When we look at the data, we do see a slightly higher amount of burglaries in the winter months than in the summer months,” said Tim Krebs, communications manager at Protect America Home Security, a national security company.
A dark house with newspapers piling up out front, no car in the driveway and no answer at the doorbell is attractive to criminals, Aguilar said. She recommends canceling newspaper delivery for a few days if you’re traveling.
A University of North Carolina study found that a car in the driveway, signs for a security system and lights in the house were some of the most effective deterrents for burglars.
If you’ll be away from home during the holidays, ask a friend or neighbor to watch your place.
“Drive in and out of the driveway to make tire tracks in the snow, making it appear as though someone is at home,” Schepman said.
Also, “arm your system. If you have an alarm system, use it,” Aguilar said. “A lot of people don’t.”
There are a slew of new gadgets that can be installed to keep homes safer. Lights can be switched on and off from a smartphone app. Homeowners can install a camera and microphone in their doorway to observe and speak to people on their doorstep. Garage doors — a common exit point for thieves when they’re leaving, Aguilar said — can also be controlled and monitored remotely using cellphone apps.
But the best home security advice is perhaps the most simple.
“One thing in the greater metro area that always amazes me is that people don’t lock their doors,” Aguilar said. “Lock your doors.”