Not everybody makes the same preparations at Christmas, some are planning to take advantage of the season with some Christmas Crime. Essex Police have previously offered the following advice:
With the Christmas holiday season almost upon us, now is a good time to remind ourselves to take steps to make sure our Christmas isn’t spoiled by criminals.
It creates opportunities for criminals. The hustle and bustle of town centres as we rush around, the value of the goods we buy as presents and store in our homes until the big day. We might also be more trusting and generous at Christmas when requests for charity are made, giving the unscrupulous a chance to collect for their own causes.
So what can we do?
The advice below is often common sense, but you might overlook it in your haste to get everything ready.
When the shops are crowded, the pickpocket has more chance to steal from you. If you can’t arrange to shop during less busy times, make sure you stay alert and be extra careful with your wallet or purse.
Try not to carry too much
When carrying many bags, you will be too busy trying to hold on to these to be aware of anyone stealing from you. You could try to make smaller shopping trips rather than do it all at once and carry too much. Have your purse/wallet close to your body and don’t carry too much cash. The same applies to travelling on crowded buses or trains.
Park in a well-lit area
If you travel by car, make sure you park in a well-lit area, lock all doors and windows. Do not leave presents in view. Try not to return to your car to leave purchases in the boot before continuing with your shopping trip; thieves may well watch car parks for just such a chance.
Arrange to collect heavy items from stores when you have finished all of your shopping. Always keep your cheque book and cheque card separately and never keep a note of your pin number with any of your credit or debit cards.
If you need to use an ATM), try to use one either inside a bank or store, or in a well-lit area, away from nooks and crannies. Be aware of who and what is close by, if the ATM looks as though it has been tampered with, do not use it. If you have suspicions report it to the Bank or store a.s.a.p. Never use an ATM if someone is using a mobile phone behind you, or close by. (They could be tapping your pin number into their phone memory). It is often a safer option to use a supermarket, shop or store that offers cash-back.
Having bought all those wonderful presents, don’t make it easy for someone to steal from your home. Keep them out of sight until last thing on Christmas Eve. If you ‘hide’ or store larger items, e.g. bicycles, in the shed or outbuildings, make sure they are very secure. It’s a good time to check that you know what you have now (TV etc) and with the extra presents.
It’s worth checking your insurance to make sure you are covered for the value of goods in your home. Take the frame numbers of new cycles and the serial numbers of new electrical equipment for future reference. Remember, empty boxes left outside advertise that you have new goods inside – dispose of packaging carefully.
If you go out for the evening – make it look like someone is home; turn on lamps and radio. Don’t leave curtains open so people can see your decorations, potential thieves can also see in. Be extra careful about locking doors and windows. As a fire precaution, don’t leave ‘Christmas lights’ on in the house whilst you are out.
If you go away – use an automatic timer for lights and ask a trusted neighbour to watch your home. Don’t forget to cancel newspapers and milk if you have them delivered. Consider redirecting your mail through the Post Office or have your neighbour take mail into the house; unopened Christmas cards and mail, are a sure sign that a house is empty.
Strangers at the door – genuine delivery personnel, usually have uniforms and liveried vehicles and should not need to come into your home. Charity collectors will have identification and will not be offended if you ask to see it. If you are not sure but want to make a donation, ask whether these can be made in other ways, perhaps through a bank.
Out on the town
- With office parties and general Christmas celebrations, pubs, restaurants and other venues are often crowded.
- Don’t leave bags over the back of your chair and keep wallets and purses close to your body to make it more difficult for the pickpocket.
- Busy places make it easier for the sneak thief, so be alert at all times.
- Make prior arrangements as to how you will get home, perhaps nominating a ‘Designated Driver.’
- Avoid any potential disturbances on the street. Stay with friends if you can.
- Avoid the temptation to take a minicab on the street even if you are having difficulty getting a cab – it is illegal for minicabs to take passengers who have not pre-booked.
Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be back. Don’t drink too much – you could become a target for thieves.
- Never place candles near your Christmas tree or materials that can catch light easily.
- Check your Christmas tree lights carry the British Safety Standard sign.
- Test the batteries in your smoke alarm every week. Never remove them.
- Make sure cigarettes are put out properly.
- Make sure your family and visitors know how to escape in an emergency.
- Most fires start in the kitchen. Avoid leaving a cooker unattended.
- Never overload electrical sockets. Always switch Christmas lights off and unplug them before you go to bed.
- Keep candles, lighters and matches out of children’s reach. Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Decorations can burn easily – so don’t attach them to lights or heaters.
- Store fireworks safely: Never go back to a lit firework and keep a bucket of water nearby.
- Take care around open fireplaces as clothes may catch fire.
Top Ten Tips
- If you must store Christmas food and drink, presents and other goodies within garages and outbuildings, ensure that they are out of sight and that it’s securely locked with good quality well fitted locks. Treat your shed to a shed alarm.
- Avoid tempting window shopping burglars; don’t leave presents and valuables on full view in front of a window.
- Ensure that your windows and doors are closed and locked before leaving the house. Don’t attract burglars to your home by leaving it in darkness; leave lights on timers, perhaps treat yourself to a TV simulator too.
- Lock gates to keep unwanted visitors from getting to the rear of your home.
- Whether an evening out or Christmas shopping keep your bags, handbags, wallets and mobile safe. Busy places make it easier for the sneak thief, so be alert at all times.
- Park safely; look for a Parkmark accredited car park www.parkmark.co.uk/car-park-finder Check that your car is locked before you leave it and don’t leave valuables and gifts on display in your car.
- When you go to leave the house and find that your car is all iced up, don’t leave it unattended with the engine running to de-ice it. It only takes a second to steal your car and it would invalidate any insurance claim.
- Attending a Christmas party – make sure that you have considered how you are getting home in advanced and avoid using unlicensed taxi’s. Ensure you drink responsible and are aware of your surroundings, whilst keeping your drink and belongings safe.
- Watch what you put on social media; check your settings to ensure that you are not broadcasting when you are not at home and the lovely gifts you have received.
- After Christmas don’t advertise your nice gifts to the thieves by putting the empty boxes out for collection, disguise them, fold them up inside out or put them inside other non-descript box.
- Record your new property free on www.immobilise.com , install tracking and security apps on relevant electrical and computer products.