Liam Croke: protect your home from burglars this Christmas

With Christmas morning only 21 days away, we are into the swing of things already and sometimes we get so carried away with parties, buying presents etc. that we tend to forget we are more at risk of being burgled at this time of the year than any other time.

With Christmas morning only 21 days away, we are into the swing of things already and sometimes we get so carried away with parties, buying presents etc. that we tend to forget we are more at risk of being burgled at this time of the year than any other time.

We are rich pickings for thieves who are only well aware that houses could have presents for siblings/friends under their Xmas trees already.

I was told a heart breaking story of an elderly couple in Co. Clare a couple of years ago who came back from playing cards the Saturday night before Xmas to find their house had been burgled; as bad as that was, they said the worst thing was the presents they had bought for their grandchildren were stolen as well.

So, rule number one this December, is not to leave Xmas gifts in plain sight of windows that are potentially in view of burglars. Keep them hidden away for as long as possible.

Having adequate insurance cover in place is rule number two as it covers the cost of not only contents being stolen from your house but also being damaged as well.

You can have what is called accidental damage added to your policy so that expensive gifts like cameras, laptops, jewellery etc. are covered so it is absolutely essential to know what you are covered for, because getting it wrong could end up costing you a fortune.

Thankfully some insurance companies recognise that people have more contents in their home in the month of December and they will automatically increase your contents cover by 10% free of charge so it might be worth making a call to them to see if they will for you.

If not, you might feel you need to increase the amount of cover or you might want to insure a particular item that is very valuable. You will have to pay more for this but you will get the peace of mind knowing you are covered.

According to a survey carried out recently the best day of the year to propose marriage was on Xmas eve? Some 32% of respondents to this survey said they did it or planned to on this day, and another 13% said Xmas day with another 5% on New Year’s eve so there might be a engagement rings in a lot of houses this Xmas that their owners have to be mindful of and keep safe.

What you also have to be aware of is the level of cover if the ring was stolen or lost outside your house.

The answer is probably not, unless you have what is called all risks attaching to your policy and this is where you are covered from the loss of an item for whatever reason even if it happened outside the house.

I read somewhere, recently that apparently one in 20 engagement rings end up being lost!

So how do think thieves target houses to burgle?

The answer is fairly easy; they target a house that is preferably unoccupied, with easy access and one that has a good escape route. So rule number three is to make it difficult for thieves to break into your home.

If you have a garden shed then lock away any garden tools or ladders so that a burglar cannot use them to break into your house.

Do what I do and use a heavy-duty padlock to lock your garden shed and every night, without fail, I lock the gates into my house. We should be doing this all year round by the way.

Make it difficult and if you do, thieves will give up trying to break into your house if it takes too much effort.

Did you know that most break-ins are through front or back doors? Keep inside doors locked and keyed as well – if they come in the back door and get into your utility for example then make it difficult for them by having the door to your kitchen/rest of the house, locked.

Exterior lighting is also very important so make sure if you have outside lights that they are working front, back and to the side of your home.

If thieves think that a house is occupied they will think twice about trying to break into it so if you are out shopping or socialising, for example, try to give the impression that someone is home and in this regard interior lighting is also important as it gives off an impression that someone is in the house.

Some other security housekeeping for you to bear in mind is to not leave car or home keys in plain sight, like on hall tables or on window sills. Don’t tempt thieves by showing them the keys to your home and or car – they will be tempted and they will try to get them.

Also, be a good neighbour, keep a watch out for each other and report suspect activity to each other – text messaging is a great way to communicate in this regard.

Also call the police if you see anything or anyone acting suspicious, and write down the number plates of suspicious cars in your area as well, if you can

And if you are going way for Xmas, for God sake please don’t announce it on social media to everyone.

Even if your social media profiles are closed to people who are not your friends, burglars might still find a way of finding out and they are constantly monitoring sites like Facebook and Twitter looking for clues from people telling people where they are, or where they are going to.

If you are going away tell a trusted neighbour or family member and get them to check in on your house every other day so they can check and see that everything is OK. Take your post in from the hall etc. and if you can leave your car or a neighbour’s car in the driveway, then great.

I know someone who even gets a family member to leave out their wheelie bin on collection days. Again you just want to try and leave an impression that you are still at home.

Finally, remember to keep receipts of everything you buy in case you have to make a claim, and develop a safety-check routine for the next few weeks, I do, and it is one of the best habits I have.