Keeping Your Home (and Self) Safe for the Holidays

posted by Ashley St. Clair

The holiday season conjures images of hot toddies and fireplaces, festive dinners with friends and family. We like to think of the holidays as a warm, safe, and spirited time. And with a few simple—yet oftentimes overlooked—precautionary measures, we can each help to ensure that our holiday season is in fact safe for our families and our neighbors.

Note: The Durham Police Department offers free home security surveys to identify security weaknesses and can provide suggestions for how to increase the natural surveillance of your home and make your house less inviting to a burglar. Call 560-4404 for more information.


● Avoid advertising that you will be away.

● Consider using at least two timers for turning on lights inside your home. This will give the appearance that it is occupied.

● Put exterior lights on photoelectric switches to activate them at dusk.

● Ask a trusted neighbor to watch your home, shovel snow, and park in your driveway periodically.

● Don‘t forget to have mail, newspaper, and deliveries stopped (or picked up by a neighbor).

● Leave a key and your contact information with someone you trust; don’t hide a key outside – burglars know all of the “good hiding spots.”

● Lock up ladders, tools, and recreational equipment.

● Do not keep large amounts of money in your home.

● Make sure your windows are locked and secured, that you use deadbolt locks on exterior doors, and that you pin sliding glass doors for added security. Burglars will only spend approximately sixty seconds trying to break into a residence.

● Cut back your shrubbery so that it doesn’t obscure the doors and windows of your home.


● Turn on lights, the radio, or a TV so that it looks like someone‘s home.

● Be cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave.

● Don‘t display gifts where they can be seen from outside your home.

● Upon your return, if anything looks suspicious, don’t go inside. Call the police from a neighbor’s house or cellular phone.


● The holiday season is a good time to update—or create–your home inventory. Take photos or make videos of items, and list descriptions and serial numbers. Keep the photos or videos in a secure place for future reference. If your home is burglarized, having a detailed inventory can help identify stolen items and make insurance claims much easier to file. Make sure that things like TVs, DVDs, VCRs, stereo equipment, cameras, camcorders, sport equipment, jewelry, silver, computers, home office equipment and power tools are on the list. Check it twice!


● Stay alert and be aware of what‘s going on around you at all times.

● Park in well-lit areas, and be sure to lock the car, close the windows, and place all shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.

● Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check, or credit card whenever possible.

● Carry wallets in front pockets and purses close to your body.

● Pay attention to people walking in front of behind you. Be particularly observant when you are in crowded areas such as malls and stores, as places with large crowds are favorites for thieves and pickpockets.

● When shopping with children, teach them to go to the store clerk, information center, or security guard if you get separated.


● Always lock your vehicle and store all items out of sight. Breaking into a seemingly empty car isn‘t worth a thief‘s time.

● Always lock your car and check it before you walk away.

● If you take packages to the car but plan to return to the store or mall, drive to a new location. Criminals can be on the lookout for unsuspecting shoppers who simply drop their purchases into the trunk and then return to keep shopping.

● When returning to your vehicle (or home) have your keys in your hand ready to open the door.

● Most vehicles are equipped with factory car alarms; if you become startled or approached unwanted, push your vehicle‘s panic alarm. It may prevent an unwanted situation from escalating.

Crime prevention tips courtesy of The Durham Police Department, the Hope Valley Neighborhood Association, and the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association

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