It’s time again for another installment of our holiday home security & safety tips! You might remember our list from last year. Holidays always see a spike in property crime, and so it’s an important time to play it safe and be aware of common risks. The seasonal increase in property crime probably is due to a number of factors. It’s dark earlier and night is longer–especially here in rainy Seattle. People are out at holiday parties or travelling to see family so more homes are left unattended. If people are home, they often are receiving more packages than usual and have a lot more new things in their homes. Plus, I suspect that sometimes the stress of just making it through the holidays makes us less attentive to matters of home security than we might be otherwise. The real reason is probably a mix, but whatever that mix might be, we’re here to help!
- Make it look active! Most burglaries occur between 10AM and 3PM because that’s the time most homes are unoccupied. Adults are at work and kids are at school. This makes sense because deterrence is based on the probability that someone will get caught (rather than the severity of the crime). If someone’s home, the probability of getting caught for a burglar is very high. If not, the probability becomes more reasonable.
- Lights! One of the best ways to make your home look active is lights. If you set up holiday lights outside it makes your home look festive and eliminates shadows a burglar could hide in. Of course lights inside make it look like someone is there, too. But just having lights isn’t enough. Timers or lights that are always on can be a red flag that the house is unoccupied. A better strategy is to either invest in IoT technologies that allow you to control your lights remotely, or set more random timers to turn on and off lights.
- Clean up the yard! Another way to make the home look unoccupied is to let snow accumulate in the walkways or let the grass grow long.
If you’re going to be gone, hire a neighborhood kid to do this. I loved to shovel walks and help out neighbors when I was younger, especially if they passed me some cash for my work. It’s a good way to get to know the neighbors, and it helps them learn about work.
- Home security! Even a simple home security system can do a great deal. If there are visible security features like cameras or alarms, potential thieves will be more likely to move along to the less protected house rather than risk getting caught by a security system. Amazon has a great list of home security gadgets and gifts that can give you peace of mind while you’re away.
- Hold it! UPS, FedEx, and USPS all will hold your mail while you’re away. Keeping packages and mail from piling up is key. Not only are these items valuable targets for porch pirates, they also may as well be a Vacancy sign in front of your house. Having these companies hold your mail is particularly useful if you know you have a lot of packages coming, and you can’t get a friend or neighbor to pick them up. All you have to do is sign up for the service, and then pick up your packages when you return.
- Track your packages! All of the major carriers and online retailers offer online tracking of packages. They can give you a pretty close window of when your packages will arrive. This will help you plan your holidays to make sure someone’s there to collect your packages. Even better, add a Package Guard and get an alert on your phone when the package has been delivered.
- Take extra precautions! UPS, USPS, and FedEx allow you to require signatures on deliveries. If you set this feature, the driver won’t leave a package unattended. While this is a bit of a hassle, if you miss the delivery you have to wait until the next day or pick it up at the station, there’s no chance that the package will be left unattended. If you don’t request this feature then it’s up to the discretion of the driver whether it’s safe to leave a package or not.
- One of the fastest growing holiday crimes is identity theft. While this is the way of the world now, there are some things you can do to avoid identity theft. Make sure you use good, unique passwords on all of your accounts. Password managers can be a great way to do this. It’s worth taking a few minutes to look into these tools and to learn a bit about how passwords are cracked. Also, be aware of the mail that you throw away or receipts that you leave lying around. Every bit of info could be used to get more. We’re not saying you should be paranoid, but it’s a good idea to pay attention to these easily addressed avenues to identity theft.
- Watch out for Shoplifters! Just as homes become targets for increased theft around the holidays, so do businesses. Shoplifting, while a concern year round, spikes during the holidays. This might be related to the holiday pull to get new things. It might also simply be because there are more people in the stores. Whatever the reason, if you’re a shop owner, it’s worth setting up extra countermeasures against shoplifting during the holidays.
- Have FUN! Holiday’s can be really stressful and there’s an increase in heart attacks around the holiday season. Extra stress, holiday foods, and even the season itself seem to be out to get us. You can’t avoid the season, and it’s hard to say no to your favorite pie (c’mon, it’s the holidays!), but you can decrease the stress of holidays. Take some time to breath, relax and treat yourself to a wonderful, safe, and happy holiday season!