Households are being urged to ramp up security during the winter months as dark evenings provide the perfect setting for opportunist thieves. Criminals rely on the cover of darkness to strike homes across the country.
New figures show there were almost 9,000 winter burglaries last year and the total cost of insurance claims amounted to almost £14.5 million.
As the evenings get darker, thieves are targeting UK households, yet worryingly, one in four homes has no content insurance cover at all, according to the Association of British Insurers.
Homeowners are being warned to ensure that their contents and building insurance is up to date in order to prevent any financial losses in the event of theft or damage.
Halifax research shows that the average cost of a winter burglary last year was over £1,500.
Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager, Halifax Home Insurance, said: “Being burgled causes homeowners a great deal of stress and upset, not to mention the financial loss. We often see these claims rise around this time of year, with the average burglary claim reaching more than £1,500.
“Although home insurance will cover any financial loss, some items such as family heirlooms and items of sentimental value cannot be replaced, so it’s certainly worth taking some simple cost-effective measures to avoid becoming an easy target.”
It’s not just the seasonal change which causes criminals to creep out. Halloween and Bonfire night- dubbed as ‘mischief week’- are prime nights for property damage and break-ins.
Research from Santander suggests that a fifth of British homes have been damaged as a result of Halloween or Bonfire night. On average, this has caused the nation £1.4 billion worth of damage.
Eggs being thrown, firecrackers being posted through the letterbox and stray fireworks cause an average of £273 worth of damage to UK households.
More than five million British households have been the victim of vandalism during ‘mischief week’. Some 10% of households have suffered property damage because of eggs being thrown. Around 1.5 million households have had their garden plants or fences damaged or removed.
Richard Al-Dabbagh, Santander Insurance, said: “Halloween and Bonfire night should be about light-hearted family fun, but unfortunately this can often bring with it accidents and anti-social behavior.
“Much of the damage that occurs during mischief week is the result of seemingly harmless pranks like egg throwing, but the research also highlights an alarmingly high incidence of petty crime and threatening behaviour.
“These are annual traditions that the public should be able to enjoy without feeling their home or personal wellbeing is under threat, but this doesn’t change the fact that the risk of crime and accidents is elevated during ‘mischief week’.”
It’s important to note that during this week of monster mayhem, a number of people are out of their homes at night enjoying the freaky fun and fireworks. This leaves their properties vacant for thieves to strike.
Top tips to keep your home theft-free this winter:
It could be advisable to keep all valuables out of sight so that crafty criminals are not tempted by something they might like the look of. It could be a good idea to keep receipts and photographs of valuables you have purchased as this can help to process a claim, should you need to.
Another way to keep valuables safe is by installing a safe in your home. This could keep items such as credit cards, digital cameras and expensive jewellery (as well as cash and passports) hidden from perpetrators.
It could be well worth updating your home insurance policy so that if you need to make a claim you have not undervalued your personal possessions.
Windows on the ground floor are attractive to criminals who are looking for an easy entrance. It could be well worth paying particular attention to any ground floor windows and making sure they have visible key-operated locks.
Even if you are home at the time, it might be worth making sure these types of windows and easy entrances are locked at all times.
High walls, railings and trellising on fence-tops could be a good way to deter thieves for trying to break into your property. This is because it slows down criminals who are trying to escape. Prickly hedges and thorny bushes around the property could also prevent criminals trying to enter, as well as obstructing their view of what is actually inside the property.