I scan countless burglary reports and articles about residential crime, and some of the saddest ones appear over the holidays, with stories of presents taken from cars and homes across the US before they can be given – or received. And just about every year I read at least one story about wrapped gifts stolen on Christmas Eve from beneath the tree.
It’s true that burglars step up their activities this time of year, just as they do during the summer. During the holidays more homeowners are out of the house, or are perhaps a bit less guarded, and the pickings are easy for enterprising intruders. But there are steps you can take, and that’s the topic for today’s post. Let’s start with an article from Tuolumne County, California.
As the holiday season approaches, law enforcement officials encourage residents to take extra precautions against burglars. “People are more desperate during the holidays, so we get more property crimes,” said Sgt. Scott Johnson, public information officer for the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. An FBI study found that more than 400,000 burglaries occur in the United States during the months of November and December each year.
Who is at Risk, and What Gets Stolen?
In Calaveras and Tuolumne [California] counties, law enforcement officers have identified specific patterns in burglary cases. For example, single-family homes are more likely to be targeted than apartment buildings, and the most commonly pilfered items in burglaries include gold, electronics, firearms, jewelry and alcohol. “Burglars look for anything that can be converted into quick cash,” Johnson said.
What You Can Do
Despite the prevalence of burglary during the holiday season, residents can take precautions to protect themselves. These precautions include getting to know neighbors, putting timers on lights, stopping newspaper delivery when they leave town, arranging to be home when packages are delivered and not leaving boxes for expensive merchandise on the curbs in front of their houses. Sgt. Chris Hewitt of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office said people should never take security for granted. “People think that because they live here in the foothills, they can leave their cars and homes unlocked and nothing bad will happen,” Hewitt said. “People need to be careful at all times and not leave valuables in the open.”
More Great Tips
He went on to say that his department encourages residents to install security cameras and alarm systems in their houses. While residents are at an increased risk of being burglarized during the holiday season, law enforcement is quick to point out that burglars are at great peril when they commit their crimes. “Burglary is a very risky activity. In Calaveras and Tuolumne, lots of people own firearms,” Johnson said, adding that burglars can become victims themselves if they break into a house they believe is empty and encounter an armed homeowner.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
“Our counties are very aggressive with our burglary investigations,” Johnson said. “We actively investigate all burglaries.” More than anything, law enforcement emphasizes the importance of community participation in preventing burglaries. “People should get to know their neighbors and let them know when they’re leaving town,” Johnson said. “Then, if you get a hunch that something is wrong, you shouldn’t hesitate to call law enforcement. Your call could be just the break we need to prevent or solve a crime.”
Of course, here at FrontPoint we love it when police recommend monitored alarm systems as a way to increase your sense of security and peace of mind. And here in Washington DC, which is FrontPoint’s back yard, police are issuing a similar warning to homeowners to be extra vigilant over the holidays.
The number of burglaries in the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's second district, which includes Georgetown, has increased 17 percent from last year, according to a crime statistics report on Nov.19, and police warn residents to be more careful around the holidays. "Historically most burglaries increase around the holidays when people are away," said Melvin Gresham, an MPD captain in the second district.
DC Police Offer Specific Safety Tips
Last year there were 286 burglaries (thefts that involve breaking and entering) by Nov.19, and this year, there were 336. MPD advises being more alert this season and implementing a few safety measures if you are leaving your home for the holidays.
- According to MPD, installing automatic lights, stopping mail service and getting a neighbor to park in your driveway and shovel snow are effective ways to prevent a break in while away on vacation.
- If you're out for the evening, MPD says to leave lights and a TV or radio on and store holiday gifts where they can't been seen from the outside.
- Doors and windows should never be left unlocked, even for a few minutes, MPD says.
- Same goes for your car. Always lock doors and windows, keep shopping bags and packages in the trunk and never leave the car running without you in it, MPD says.
"This holiday season, don't let the spirit of giving lull you into giving burglars, muggers and pickpockets a better chance to do their dirty work," the MPD website says. For more tips on staying safe during the holidays, whether you're out shopping or a stranger comes to your door, read MPD's Winter Holiday Safety Tips.
Home Security Systems Work
Research has shown that a home with a monitored alarm system is only one third as likely to experience a burglary as the unprotected home next door. That’s one reason why more and more lists of home security reconditions offered by local law enforcement do talk about monitored home security, and it’s not just having that system in place: you also have to be disciplined about arming it, even when you are at home.
FrontPoint cares about your safety and security, especially at this joyous and often hectic time of year. After all, protecting homes and families is our highest priority. We’ll keep on finding and posting these great tips, since it’s our goal to be your resource for crime statistics, burglar behaviors, and the latest technologies to thwart intruders. Remember, FrontPoint is the only nationwide alarm company to use safer cellular monitoring on every system we’ve ever sold, starting in 2007 – and still on the case! Smart homeowners also know us for our smarter Interactive level of monitoring. Make sure your home is protected: by FrontPoint, the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. And may your holidays be as safe and secure as they can be!