Winter is always accompanied by a rise in the number of home break-ins and burglaries.
The colder months have traditionally been a peak time for break-ins, but the recession has only made people more willing to commit crimes. Burglaries are up from 651,000 in 2009/10 to 701,000 in 2011/12 and there is no sign that the trend will abate, with police forces all over the UK making people aware of the dangers.
The dark nights, the prospect of high-value goods and the lack of passersby on the streets are an ideal combination for offenders, but there are some things you can do to make your own property a less attractive option to a potential burglar.
Secure the doors
Burglars will look at your doors as the first point of entry. If your front door looks tatty, or if it only has one cylinder or Yale lock and no deadlock - or mortise - a thief will be interested.
Ensure that your doors have at least two locks and are kept in a good state of repair - do not give burglars any reason to think that breaking into your property would be easy. Remember, it is standard practice for burglars to put a long stick through your letterbox and 'fish' for keys, so keep all keys - including car keys - hidden and ideally, you could cage your letterbox.
Also, if you have been the victim of a burglary, check your spare keys. Often thieves will take them and come back in a few days' time. If you even suspect any keys are missing, change the locks.
Watch your windows
After the doors, windows are the most obvious access point for a thief. From a burglar's point of view, windows are also handy as they are transparent and allow them a clear look at what is inside. Ideally, your windows should be fitted with curtains and blinds to obscure views, while double glazing and visible locks can be an extra deterrent.
Keep the lights on
As the sun sets in the late afternoon, artificial light is needed if you want to avoid sitting in the dark. Burglars know this and any house that is pitch black will be viewed as unoccupied and a potential target. Socket timers are a very effective investment to ensure a few key lights in your house will always be on - even if nobody is home.
Be social media savvy
We all like showing the world how much of a good time we have had over Christmas, but be careful what you post.
Any Facebook announcements about going on holiday or tweets with location tags are like placing an advert showing criminals when your home will be unoccupied.
Invest in an alarm
These can make a huge difference to the likelihood of your home being broken into. Intruder alarms help reinforce all other areas of your home security, while providing a real and visible deterrent to offenders.
Try not to skimp on your purchase, as professional and even opportunistic burglars can bypass cheap systems and identify dummy alarms from the street. For maximum security, modern alarms can be integrated into a home security solution that makes use of CCTV and access control, while monitored alarms can alert police or neighbours directly.