Holiday Security Tips

The holiday season is upon us and it’s a busy time of the year. We get distracted. Here are some tips from the CRA’s security expert, Des Ryan, to keep you and your possessions safe.

Most crimes we experience are crimes of opportunity, which means that from a criminal’s perspective, it’s nothing personal. We are just the easiest mark.

Avoid being the ‘easy mark’

Vehicle Break-Ins
For example, don’t leave bags or anything valuable visible in your vehicle. If you’re dropping bags off as you pop in and out of stores, make sure your packages are out of sight (i.e. in the trunk or even under a blanket). And, of course, don’t forget your gifts in the car when you get home.

Distraction Thefts
Distraction thefts are on the rise at this time of year. Our arms are often full and our minds are even more full as we rush to get things done. The wallet that usually goes safely away might be shoved in a coat pocket, along with everything else that’s in there. Or the purse that is usually held tightly might be dangling off of your wrist, or momentarily left sitting somewhere. A quick bump in a crowded shop could be the distraction needed for someone to snap up your cash and credit cards. Be aware of your surroundings, and make sure your wallet and/or purse are secure.

Home Break-Ins
– Don’t announce your absence on social media
If you will be out of town for a few days, don’t announce on social media that you are away from home (unless you also like putting a sign on your front door letting people know you’re not home). Who you are, where you live, and what your daily routines are, including if and when you are heading out for a day or two can be obtained easily via social media. Post pictures and reports of your travels online when you get home, not before. Holiday Break & Enters tend to be targeted B&Es.

– Make it appear you are home
While bandits will always use the tried-and-true door knock to see if anyone is home first, checking to see if lights are on (or off) has historically been a good indication of whose home is likely empty. Installing video doorbells (you can answer from anywhere via a smart phone) or leaving a radio on in your house while you are away are also good tips to dissuade burglars.

– Have someone check on your home
If you are heading out, while not making any public announcements, do have a neighbour or friend keep an eye on your place and maybe even give them a key to go in every other day or so, just to make sure that everything is as it should be. Most homeowner insurance policies require that someone enter the house every few days (check with your insurance company for details) to check for floods or heating failure anyway.

With your gifts safely tucked away, wallet and/or purse in its usual secure place, and your personal holiday plans all privately sorted, you are set to have a wonderful time.

Last thing: don’t drink and drive. There is no need. Take a taxi or the TTC (free on New Year’s Eve), call a friend, or even walk. Giving yourself a criminal record is, at the very least a really crappy gift. Canada has been ranked the worst country for drunk-driving fatalities amongst wealthy countries (nationalpost.com). We recommend watching this video at least once per year (youtube.com) to remind yourself of what your experience might be if you or someone you love is involved in a drinking and driving incident. Interestingly, as a result of the effects of alcohol, no one ever sees themselves as the potential impaired driver. We all assume it couldn’t happen to us because we’re ‘not that person’. While fatalities are still linked closely to younger impaired driving, roadside spot checks seem to have a much higher number of ‘mature’ men (ie over 45) and women in general.

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