Criminals never seem to sleep or take holidays – and certainly not during the festive season when there is a prospect of rich pickings from homes left empty and unprotected while their owners are off enjoying themselves.

So if you don’t want to have your hard-earned breakaway ruined by a break-in – or even if you just want to spend carefree time out shopping or visiting friends and family during the holidays, you should take action now to make your home as secure as possible.

And this needn’t always involve expensive technology. For example, your first line of defence should be good quality locks on all your doors, and also at the top and bottom of all sliding Patio doors to prevent them being lifted out of their tracks, even if you have security gates that go across them.

It’s also a good idea to add a strong hasp and staple with a padlock on either side of your garage door to supplement the standard central lock, and if there is an interleading door to your home, to fit a strong security gate to that. In addition, all opening windows should be fitted with burglar guards and your home should be fitted with a dual-link alarm system supported by a reputable security company. This will offer you and your family year-round protection and you may also pay a lower household insurance premium if you have one.

On bigger properties, especially, you may also want to add infra-red perimeter beams so the alarm will be triggered by unauthorised “visitors” before they even reach the house, and possibly a couple of motion-activated spotlights and a CCTV system. These days such systems can easily also be linked to your Smartphone so you can be alerted to intruders and capture photos of them even if you are not at home.

If you’re going away on holiday, one of the best ways to keep your home secure is to engage a professional house sitter (with references), but if this is not possible, you should mow the lawn and clean the pool before you go, and then enlist the help of a reliable friend, relative or neighbour to visit regularly and clear the mailbox, check the property and make sure that your alarm system is functioning correctly. If feasible, they should also park a different vehicle in your driveway on different days while you’re away.

Then to make it look like someone is at home in the evenings, an inexpensive solution is to install programmable time-switches to turn lights, lamps, the stereo or the TV on and off- and Smart-home systems that enable you to do this from your cell phone are also becoming more and more affordable. You can also replace switches for outside lights with photocell switches or lightbulbs that will turn on automatically at dusk. During the year, you should also move any trailers, caravans, ATVs and other holiday equipment around because things that are stored in the same place all the time and then “disappear” for two or three weeks are a dead giveaway for sharp-eyed burglars. You can also stop thieves who may be watching your property from “window-shopping” during the holidays by unplugging and locking away your computers, sound systems and other electronic equipment and valuables. An added benefit is that this will prevent lightning damage. In addition, you should not leave voice messages on your phone advertising the fact that you are going away – or post any location specific travel or holiday pictures on social media while you are away.

You never know which “friend” – or friend-of-a-friend – might take this as an invitation to drop around and help themselves to your belongings. Meanwhile if you are staying home for the holidays, you should be strict about keeping your security gates and doors locked – even if
you’re just out by the pool, sitting watching TV, having a braai with friends or quickly popping out to the local shop. You should also look out for unknown vehicles hanging around your neighbourhood, and for criminals that work in pairs or groups and will send someone to engage your attention at your front entrance while gaining entrance at the back of your property.

And if you intend doing some gardening or DIY work this summer, don’t leave your lawnmower, ladder or power tools lying around, or in an unlocked shed or garage, even while you just step inside for a cool drink. Vigilance and awareness are the best deterrents, especially for opportunistic thieves who are always looking for things they can just snatch up and sell.

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