Tips for keeping your house safe during the holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful time for you and your family, but for some families, the holidays can be heartbreaking. Especially if a burglar helps himself to all your Christmas presents.

Of the two million home burglaries a year in this country, about 25-percent occur in November and December.

One big reason is burglars know people are not only stocking up on gifts, but they're often not around because they're out buying more gifts, attending holiday gatherings or out of town visiting friends and relatives.

Keeping your house locked during the holidays is first and foremost, but it's also a good idea to keep curious eyes from peeking inside your home.

Draw the curtains or blinds because a burglar may not need to go through the door to take your gifts.

“Some of the things they may be looking for is people like to put their tree right in front of their front window,” says Lt. Patrick Hechlinski a SBPD Crime Prevention Specialist. “Along with that, they like to display their presents under that tree. If you're in one of the houses that has windows that go all the way to the floor level there, that makes it very easy for someone to break out a window, reach inside, grab those gifts and then, not even have to enter your house in order to steal them from you.”

Lt. Hechlinski says this time of year, it's even more important to keep the outside of your home well lit.

“I feel a dark house makes it very inviting for somebody who wants to break in to see what you have inside, it makes them very comfortable coming up to your house unnoticed because you don't have your lights on,” says Lt. Hechlinski. “The burglars are able to peek inside and see what you have. In order for them to come up to a house with the light on, they're going to have to go into that light and have to be seen and it just makes it less attractive for them to come up and do that sort of thing.”

Another reason burglars love this time of year is they know a lot of people travel over the holidays.

“If you're going to be away from the house for an extended period of time, have a trusted friend or neighbor get your paper or your mail, don't let that stack up because that's an obvious indicator that you're home,” says Lt. Hechlinski. “If it snows, ask somebody to snow blow your driveway or shovel it for you. If you have a neighbor that can park in your driveway overnight so it gives the appearance that somebody's home, that helps as well.”

If you are heading out of town after Christmas, don't leave those gift boxes out where they can be seen.

“They can shop right from the street on trash day,” explains Lt. Hechlinski. “They can see what everybody got, especially if they leave their boxes out. The best advice is to cut those boxes up, put them inside your trash receptacle.”

You can learn a lot more about keeping your home and yourself safe during the holiday season by attending a special meeting this Thursday night.

The South Bend Police Crime Prevention Unit will be holding its monthly Crime Meeting, which will include a special presentation on holiday safety.

Anyone is invited to attend and you'll be able to ask questions about staying safe over the holidays or any other subject related to crime.

It starts at 6:45 p.m. in the auditorium of Police Headquarters at 701 West Sample. Just enter the south door on the west side of the building.

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