Winter brings darker nights and increased opportunities for callous thieves.
Research shows that break-ins surge during the longer, darker evenings which provide ample hiding places for shady burglars.
And as the festive period usually leads to increased socialising, crooks will be on the lookout for unattended homes.
As Brits prepare for the clocks to go back they are being reminded to be vigilant against thieves.
Tim Downes, of Halifax Home Insurance, told The Mirror: "The clocks going back should act as a timely reminder to protect our homes from burglars during the darker days.
"There are many advantages to shorter evenings and many people will happily swap summer parties and barbecues for quiet nights in front of the fire.
"However when the clocks change, we also see an increase in burglary using force.
"Following some of our simple tips is an easy way for homeowners to protect their properties during the darker days.”
There are things you can do to safeguard your home against heartless thieves who want to steal your valuables.
Alarm systems can be useful, as can checking in with neighbours and letting them know when you are planning on being away.
To help you make better decisions, John Lewis Home Insurance asked a group of ex-offenders for their advice on where people should – and absolutely should not – hide items such as jewellery and other small valuables while away.
Don’t be obvious
Ex-crooks said the best thing for families to do is avoid hiding valuables in obvious places such as living room drawers and dressers.
Instead, random locations such as cereal boxes, pasta and even children’s toy boxes.
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Thieves will target the main rooms of a house – the living room and kitchen – so expensive goods need to be hidden in the more unusual places.
Even locked safes that are not secured to a wall or floor will be targeted – thieves search the obvious places first.
One said: "Most people have got a ‘bits and bobs’ cupboard in their kitchen where they often keep their keys.
"Instead, I would hide my car and house keys in the food cupboards if I was going away – rice packets, cereal boxes. They are not going to go through all your food packets. DVD cases are another good place to hide valuables because they are harder to find.”
Children’s rooms are a ‘no go’
One burglar said there was an ‘unwritten rule’ that thieves do not go into children’s rooms.
Kid’s bedrooms, and playrooms, are said to be a no-go area for criminals.
One said: “Children’s bedrooms wouldn’t be a bad place to hide belongings. Ideally something of high value would be hidden in a toy or a toy box.”
Tell-tale sign you're not home
As we approach the festive season there is bound to be an increase in online shopping.
And that might be a big giveaway that you’ve gone away for a weekend to see friends or family, making you a prime target.
Posties are known to leave parcel deliveries on doorstops – giving would-be thieves a big clue that someone is away.
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And letters and leaflets sticking out from letterboxes or on doormats are another giveaway.
One offender said: "The increase of online shopping has made it easier – if you’re walking down the road and see a parcel on a doorstep there is a good chance someone is not in.
"I would suggest not ordering parcels if you won’t be around when they arrive and getting neighbours to check for parcel deliveries regularly while you’re away."
Leave a light on
It’s a classic tip that will put a thief off.
The best room to leave lights on when you go away is said to be the hallway, according to half of those ex-offenders questioned about their habits.
Timer switches are deemed to be the best way to create the illusion that a family are still home.
Using security cameras, including the popular smart doorbells that have front facing cameras, are also good deterrents.
One ex-con said they target homes between 4 and 5pm, during the school run and rush hour, as many homes will be empty for a set amount of time.
Others said that they watch homes for up to two months before breaking in – but would stay inside for as little as five minutes.
Protect your home from thieves this winter
- Keep curtains and blinds open but move expensive items out of view
- Set up smart home security such as doorbells with cameras so you can monitor your property even while you’re away
- Use an alarm system – some even link directly to security firms
- Use timer switches on indoor and outdoor lights to ensure your home looks occupied
- Ask a friend to move your post or use the Royal Mail Keepsafe service
- Don't advertise your departure on social media, your voicemail message or out-of-office email
- Lock up your valuables using a secure well-hidden safe
- Hide your goods in unusual locations
- Inform your neighbours you are going away so they can keep an eye on your property
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