Although Christmas festivities bring smiles to the majority of faces, an unfortunate few experience the effects of a seasonal increase in crime. We asked Paul Byrne from Which? Local-recommended Alexandra Locksmiths about how to protect our homes against winter crime.
Seasonal security checklist
1. Organise a security survey
Our expert locksmith says: 'A little time spent preparing for the festive season goes a long way.
'Good locksmiths offer no-obligation security surveys. They'll be able to advise on additions or upgrades to your locks and other security measures.'
2. 'Window shopping'
Our expert locksmith says: 'Although burglars generally don’t like smashing glass, an opportunist who spots a Christmas tree laden with boxed gifts through a bay window will seize the opportunity for a smash-and-grab.
'They can be in and out in under 60 seconds.'
3. Rubbish and recycling
Our expert locksmith says: 'With seasonal disruptions to rubbish and recycling collections, it’s all too easy to leave the boxes from your gifts and gadgets in full view of a would-be burglar.
'This lets them know that there are valuable goods, like laptops and smartphones, inside the home.'
Call the council in advance of the Christmas period to find out when your rubbish and recycling collections will take place. Keep the packaging from your Christmas gifts inside until that day.
You could also disguise or hide cardboard packaging in your recycling box on collection day.
4. Watch your keys
Our expert locksmith says: 'We're often called out to replace the locks when keys have been left in a taxi, or even in the door, when returning from a party.'
5. Visitors to your home
Our expert locksmith says: 'Businessmen with briefcases, carol singers and charity collectors may seem genuine. But there have been cases where unsavoury individuals or groups use amateur dramatics to find out whether a house is occupied or divert attention while a brake-in takes place at the back of the property.'
Keep the back door locked whenever it is not use. And, if you have a door chain fitted, use it when unexpected visitors ring the doorbell.
Install timers on lights around the house, so that it looks like the house is occupied when you're away.
Also, consider installing dusk-to-dawn sensor lighting to the front and back door of your home as a deterrent.
You may wish to cut back any trees or hedges which will obstruct the view from your home and provide hiding spaces for potential intruders.
6. Protect your identity
Our expert locksmith says: 'Gone are the days where only affluent areas are targeted by burglars for electrical goods.
'In addition to cash and jewellery, today’s burglar looks for bank statements, credit cards, driving licences, passports and so on.
'Thieves use these documents to steal or clone your identity.'
About our expert trader
Paul Byrne is the owner of Alexandra Locksmiths, a family-run business offering a locksmith service to domestic and business customers in London.
Alexandra Locksmiths is accredited by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) which sets and promotes standards of conduct, practice and materials within locksmithing.
Visit the MLA's website for more information about minimum home security requirments (PDF) and a register of accredited locksmiths around the country.