Thames Valley Police has issued several tips on how to keep yourself, and your belongings, safe during the festive period.
Among the tips are:
Make sure gifts and valuables, wrapped and unwrapped, are out of view and not visible from any windows. This applies in the car as well as in the home.
Photograph valuable property and log any serial numbers. Do not store the information on a laptop, as that might be stolen too – keep it on a memory stick in a safe place or e-mail to yourself.
Do not put gift packaging out for recycling or leave it sticking out of your bin – thieves will notice boxes for branded products like laptops, TVs or accessories that could indicate an expensive piece of kit somewhere in the house. The safest thing to do is to break down any cardboard boxes or fold them inside out so that you cannot see the branding. You can then store them out of sight inside your home until you can dispose of them at a local recycling site.
Mark any expensive gifts you receive for Christmas with a UV pen or property marking service. This will make it harder for burglars to sell the items and allow police to return them to you. Call your local policing team on 101 for advice about property marking products. You can register your property with www.immobilise.com which is endorsed by a number of police forces.
Lock all doors and windows, leave a light on or invest in a light timer switch and draw the curtains when you go out at night. Keep your doors and windows locked from the inside even when you are inside your home.
Visible burglar alarms, exterior security lighting, timer lighting switches and leaving the radio on help to deter thieves and give the impression that somebody is at home.
Bolt and padlock garden gates and make sure you do not leave ladders out or other things that burglars could easily use to climb on. Remember to lock your garden shed and store your tools inside; it stops burglars using your tools to break into your house. Consider fitting extra padlocks to gates, sheds and garages. Do not keep presents in the garage or shed.
If you are going away, we always recommend asking a trusted neighbour to pop in to your home every now and then to turn the lights on and off, draw the curtains, collect the mail and make the house look occupied. You could even ask a neighbour to park their car on your drive. It goes without saying, make sure everything is properly locked up before you leave and the burglar alarm – if you have one – is set. We advise cancelling your newspapers, magazines and milk deliveries. We also recommend that you do not advertise the fact you are away from your home on social networking sites - thieves use social media too!
Burglars wander around looking for chances. The best opportunity for the police to catch them in the act is for you to spot them before they break in. Wherever you live, remain vigilant and if you see anything suspicious, call 999 immediately. You can also call 101 to contact your police in a non-emergency situation.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has also produced a guide on how to keep safe during the festive season, which can be viewed and downloaded on www.ourwatch.org.uk/resource_centre/document_library/festive_season_safety/