As excitement grows and presents are exchanged, the Christmas season is a special time of year, but for a minority it poses the best opportunity to commit crime.
The dark nights combined with empty homes offer would-be burglars an easier path into properties, as people either escape the hustle and bustle of home life or light up their exteriors in a variety of bright colours.
Thames Valley Police (TVP) says it sees an increase in residential burglary during the festive and new year season, but by taking a proactive approach, you can prevent crime ruining your Christmas this year.
Chief Inspector Helen Roberts said these crimes are very difficult to stop because the people committing them are ‘opportunists’ and prey on the most vulnerable residents.
But it is the simple acts that can make a real difference if you intend to stay home this Christmas.
“After the big day, when all of your packaging goes outside, sometimes there are very large boxes that make it apparent that people have got expensive items,” Ch Insp Roberts explained.
“What I would ask is do not put [packaging] out until recycling day, and fold it up so it is in the bin.
“Otherwise you are advertising what you have got.”
TVP also advises that you should avoid leaving presents on show under the tree, and despite how hard it may be, try and refrain from posting photos about high value items on social media.
Ch Insp Roberts was unsure whether posts on Facebook and Twitter are to blame for the rise in festive burglaries, but was in no doubt that the winter months are when the burglars really come out to play.
“It is very difficult to put a stop to it, these people are opportunists. It is difficult to pro-actively police that.
“Prevention is better than prosecution,” she added.
“We have seen that homes being targeted has been rising. It is the winter months that are the most vulnerable.
“I want people to leave their presents under the tree – you want people to have an enjoyable time.
“But it is just about being sensible with your items.”
If you are packing your bags and spending the Christmas and new year period elsewhere, do not advertise your absence on social media, invite a neighbour to park their car on your drive, and light up your living room.
Timer switches or TV simulators can be bought to give the appearance of activity inside.
“It is about making your house less attractive and less vulnerable,” Ch Insp Roberts explained.
She added that a worthwhile investment to ensure the safety of your items is a wall-mounted safe, which will be located by burglars but cannot be removed or opened.
“We always take burglaries seriously. We attend every single one.
“Prevention really is the key, but if your house is burgled, please call the 101 non-emergency number.
“If the crime is happening right now – that is the time to ring 999.”