Christmas time for burglars

The presents are under the tree, you're out enjoying yourself - what a lovely scene for a thief to behold. Gwenda Joyce-Brophy reports

The Christmas tree is bedecked with baubles and twinkling lights, and surrounded by piles of enticingly wrapped presents. It's a lovely sight. Especially to burglars.

Christmas is the busiest time in the burglar's calender. The reasons why the holiday season is such a bumper time for rich pickings are straightforward says Roy Emslie, crime prevention officer with the Metropolitan Police. Properties are, quite simply, more vulnerable at this time of year.

Homes are more frequently left empty in the whirlwind of shopping trips, social events and visits, while the elongated holiday break itself has encouraged more people to take a holiday, leaving their property unattended for even longer periods. Add to that the fact that the prospective booty is beautifully easy to target - conveniently left either in the hall or sitting room - and for burglars the situation is like ... well ... Christmas.

The statistics tell the story; burglaries from residential properties peak, not as commonly believed, in the traditional holiday month of August, but in the November to January period. Hero Brown was amongst the statistics last year, victim of one of the 24,000 burglaries reported to the Metropolitan Police in the November to January period. In her case, the burglars visited on Christmas day.

"We had gone to visit my parents in Wales, and spent a lovely Christmas day with the family," she says. "We were enjoying the break from London - in fact, we were in the middle of a country walk when we got the phone call. It seems the burglars had got in on Christmas morning. Our holiday came to an abrupt end and we went back to face a ransacked flat. Everything had gone - cameras, video recorders, jewellery and my brand new computer."

The burglars had made their entry through a communal front door that should have been secure, but the security lock had been left undone.

Paul Bickerstaffe also featured amongst the national statistics last year, although in his case the burglars managed to ruin his family's Christmas without even getting into the house. "We had bought bikes for the children, and to keep them as a surprise for Christmas stored them in the garden shed". A week before Christmas thieves helped themselves to both bikes, leaving Paul and his family bereft. "It wasn't just the cost, although there was no question of replacing them, it was the sheer audacity and callousness of the people who took them". Garden sheds are a very popular target with burglars, and an area of security often overlooked, even by people who are security conscious about the house itself.

However, it is precisely because most burglars are essentially opportunist, homing in on the weakest link in a property's security, that much that can be done to strengthen a property's defences - and deter burglars. Strong, secure doors with adequate locks (see box) are the first line of defence. Over half of all burglaries involve the thief gaining access from the back, so back doors and windows need at least as much attention as the front entrance. But security awareness and cooperation is equally vital - however advanced the specifications of the locking system a nifty thief can rapidly burgle several flats in one property given just one communal entrance carelessly left undone.

If you are going away, asking neighbours to check on the property. Leaving lights on during the evening can help, although city life often offers few opportunities for relying on neighbours given that you may not even know them. Consider letting friends house-sit - a solution that many urban dwellers are increasingly adopting.

No property is immune from the threat of burglary, but, as many of those who experience a burglary realise in retrospect, there is usually scope for making it more difficult for a would-be burglar to get the chance to spoil what should be nothing less than a joyful time.

Suggested Topics
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own