Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, increased criminal activity is common throughout the United States.
According to FBI statistics, nearly 25% of burglaries occur during the holiday season. Many factors contribute to an increase in crime during the holidays, including:
•Fewer daylight hours, giving burglars more time under cover of darkness
•More people out and about preparing for the holidays
•New, valuable items centrally located under the family Christmas trees
•A tendency for people to let their guard down during the holidays
•Homes left unoccupied for long periods while families travel for the holidays
Sometimes a little extra attention to home security can make the difference between having a safe and happy holiday season and coming home to a house that's been broken into.
Police Department Vacation Checks
Many local police departments offer free vacation checks in which they check on homes that are empty while the homeowners are traveling. This offers homeowners the peace of mind of knowing they will be notified promptly if something is amiss. Plus, a police cruiser periodically checking on homes can have a deterrent effect on burglars.
In places where vacation checks are offered through the local police department, the request for a vacation check can usually be done by filling out a form and turning it in at the local police station. Homeowners are required to submit the street address, dates of departure and return, whether keys have been left with anyone, whether lights will be left on, plus miscellaneous information such as whether anyone is authorized to be on the property while the homeowner is away, whether there are pets in the home, and if there will be cars parked in the driveway.
If Your Local Police Department Doesn't Offer Vacation Checks
Even if your local police department doesn't offer vacation checks, there is still quite a bit you can do to keep your home safe while you're away. Here are some tips:
•Avoid sharing holiday travel plans on social networking sites, such as Facebook.
•Arrange for a trusted neighbor or friend to check on your house regularly and offer to do the same for them when they travel.
•Ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway when possible while you're away.
•Have your mail and newspapers collected while you're traveling.
•Use multiple light timers to switch lights on and off at random times while you're gone.
Safety at Home During the Holidays
If you're spending the holidays at home, you’re still facing a higher risk of burglary than you are the rest of the year.
It's important to maintain your normal home security practices, such locking up when you go out, even if you only plan to be gone a few minutes. Here are some more tips:
•When the doorbell rings, don't automatically open the door assuming it's a delivery person. Instruct your children to never open the door to a stranger.
•When entertaining during the holidays, keep small valuables, such as iPads, purses and jewelry boxes, locked up and out of sight.
•After Christmas, wait until trash pickup day to place boxes by the curb. These boxes can advertise to burglars exactly what they'll find in your home.
•Car burglaries also increase near the holidays, so always lock up your car, even if you're just running into a store for milk. And be sure to keep presents and other valuables in the trunk of your car if you can’t carry them from store to store.
If your police department does not offer vacation checks for local residents, it may be worth bringing up the topic at your local city council or county commission meetings, or worth speaking with your local police chief or precinct commander.