No one wants their home broken into at any time of the year, much less over Christmas, when it’s filled with carefully chosen gifts.
Don’t let a burglar ruin what should be a joyful time. To get the inside track, we’ve spoken to homeowners, experts and ex-burglars, including TV personality Michael Fraser, best known for co-presenting the BBC’s Beat the Burglar and Channel 4’s Going Straight.
They’ve given us insights into how burglars choose a house to target and what you can do to make your home as safe and secure as possible.
Here, we’ve condensed their advice into five top tips. You can read more insights in our comprehensive guide to burglar secrets revealed.
Thinking of buying a burglar alarm to protect your home? Read our reviews of the best and worst burglar alarms to find out which companies have the most satisfied customers.
1. Keep Christmas gifts (and your calendar) out of sight
For a burglar, an expensive laptop or games console a prime target at any time of the year. But at Christmas, there’s more swag to be had, so it’s best not to leave temptations on show.
If your Christmas tree can be seen from the road, don’t keep presents under it for days in advance. Keep them hidden somewhere a burglar is unlikely to bother searching – in the loft is ideal, if you have one – and only bring them out on the big day. Consider a floor-fixed safe for small valuables.
Make sure any calendars you use to keep track of your comings and goings aren’t visible from accessible windows, as it could give criminals an indication of when the house is likely to be empty.
If you’re away over Christmas, set up timers on lights so they turn on and off as if you were there. Consider asking a neighbour to open and close curtains.
2. Burglar-proof your front and back gardens
‘What a burglar looks for is the weakness in your security’, says Michael. Stand and look at your house from the outside. How would you get in if you lost your keys? ‘If you can see a way in, then a burglar definitely can,’ Michael adds.
Putting a burglar off before they even approach your house is often the best way of preventing a burglary.
- Avoid leaving tools that could aid break-ins, such as ladders, lying around near the house, and secure sheds and outbuildings.
- Join your area’s Neighbourhood Watch scheme if one exists and display a sign letting people know.
- Think about how easily any unusual activity could be seen from the road. It could be worth trimming high hedges or bushes that might restrict visibility.
- Motion-activated security lights are fairly cheap and easy to install. They can put burglars off as they’ll alert people to an intruder’s presence.
3. Secure windows and doors
A potential burglar will look for telltale signs that you aren’t fully security conscious. If you go out, don’t leave:
- keys in the back door
- windows open or unlocked
- keys in window locks, even if they’re locked
- keys on view or easily accessible.
If you have a letter box, using an internal cover plate will help stop intruders looking into your house or trying to get in by reaching the handle and lock.
If you’re getting new windows, doors or locks ahead of Christmas, look for ones that comply with British Standards for security. Windows should follow BS 7950 or PAS 24, while doors should ideally be fitted with a five-lever mortise deadlock tested to BS 3621.
Head to our page on home security for full details on making changes to the outside of your home and securing windows and doors.
4. Consider a burglar alarm
When we interviewed 100 ex-burglars in 2016, 71% told us they’d be put off by a burglar alarm.
Full monitored alarm systems, fitted by a company, offer the highest level of security but can be pricey. There are plenty of more affordable, self-fit options available from the likes of B&Q and Screwfix, including wireless alarms.
If you install your own burglar alarm, you’ll also need to think about how many sensors you need and where. If you prefer, you can ask a professional for advice on this.
Even the appearance of an alarm might be enough to put a burglar off, so if you don’t want (or can’t afford) a full alarm system, consider installing a visible dummy alarm.
5. Think about smart security options
Smart security systems come with lots of different options that interact with your smartphone, including:
- alarms that alert you via an app if they’re activated
- wireless cameras that let you view footage remotely, or see who’s at the door when the bell rings
- door locks that can be unlocked with your phone rather than a key.
You don’t have to get all elements at once. You might want to buy a smart camera to monitor your living room at Christmas, for example, and add a smart alarm later.
Most systems revolve around a central hub that connects everything together – you may be able to add other smart features too, such as smart light bulbs or thermostats.
You can buy smart security systems from established security firms such as Honeywell and Yale, as well as tech brands including Panasonic and Samsung. Some, but not all, are compatible with components from other companies, so check this before you buy.