SECURE YOUR HOME AGAINST FESTIVE CRIME

protecting_your_home_against_burglary_and_crime_picLong time readers of this column know how loathe I am to mention Christmas before December, but a survey produced by Aviva Home Insurance has raised an important issue – not just the huge cost of Christmas for the average Irish household this year – €1,463 – but the real and increased risk of break-ins and robberies during the Christmas season.
And I know all about that.
One lunchtime last December, while I was sitting at this very computer, writing a ‘MoneyTimes’ column, a navy track-suited thief tried to break into my house via a second floor window at the end of in the corridor outside my office.
It was a sunny, crisp day and the smashing of a pane of glass brought myself and my 20 year old son dashing out of our rooms.
The cowardly thief, who the Gardaí figured was carrying a small hammer or heavy screwdriver, jumped off the adjacent shed roof and swiftly walked down the back garden and over the wall.
The Gardaí told me this brazen burglar was “simply out doing his Christmas shopping” – my valuables – which he would then sell off (or give away) for cash which he would use to buy presents for his family and probably to feed a drug habit.
Fortunately, because we were home, he scurried off, but earlier that morning he had badly frightened an elderly neighbour who caught him looking into her kitchen window. Fortunately, she too always keeps her back door and downstairs windows locked.
I don’t keep my alarm system on during the daytime while we are in the house – who does?
But that incident last December has certainly made my family more security conscious, something Aviva says should be everyone’s priority this Christmas, when between €350 and €500 worth of gifts are under Christmas trees, which is why Aviva tops up their customers’ contents insurance cover by 10 per cent for December (which of course will also the value of all other valuables that thieves target – cash and jewellery, mobile phones, computers and tablets, wide-screen televisions, etc.)
According to the insurer, nearly a third of respondents admit that a burglary is a big fear over the Christmas season and for good reason: the number of burglaries rise by a whopping 25 per cent around the Christmas/New Year season say the Gardaí and the prosecution and recovery rate is a fraction of that.
These are Aviva’s 10 top tips for protecting your home this Christmas:
1: Check your home insurance policy to make sure your Christmas gifts are covered in the unlucky event of a burglary. Aviva increases the contents sum by 10 per cent – all the insurers should.
2: Don’t leave Christmas gifts in plain sight of windows and potentially in view of burglars. Keep them hidden as long as possible;
3: Lock away any garden tools or ladders so that a burglar cannot use them to break into your house and use a heavy-duty padlock to lock your garden shed;
4: Develop a safety-check routine ensuring all windows and doors are locked before going out;
5: Tell your Neighbourhood Watch or a trusted neighbour if you’ll be away over the period;
6: Don’t leave car keys in plain sight on hall tables or wall hooks;
7: If you are leaving your home for an extended period over Christmas, ask that neighbour or friend to check the house, take in post etc;
8: Even if your social media profiles are closed to ‘non-friends’ don’t use them to announce you will be away for the holidays. Burglars monitor these sites.
9: When you go shopping/socialising over the holidays give the impression that someone is home – consider leaving on a radio, TV or some lights;
10: If you are leaving for an extended period and taking your car, consider asking that friend or neighbour to park their car in your driveway from time to time to give the impression that your house is occupied.
Last December, when the break-in attempt was made on my house, the Gardaí told me that while a good security system and even CCTV cameras are a good idea, a loud, barking dog is “one of the best deterrent of all” particularly since the vast majority of thieves are opportunists.
However, security companies insist that secure windows and doors with locks and other devices that prevent the thief from entering are what we should also be considering.
Finally, too many of us unwittingly allow strangers who might be burglars into our homes, the other and easiest way our homes get robbed.
This Christmas, be wary of door to door salesmen, charity collectors, choristers and any strange tradesmen who offer to clear your gutters or are “in the neighbourhood” checking for gas or electricity faults. Call a neighbour, the utility company or dial 999 if you feel threatened.
If you have a personal finance question for Jill, please email her at jill@jillkerby.ie or write to her at Jill Kerby, Money Times, The Munster Express, 37, The Quay, Waterford.

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