It's buying time.
The holiday season includes more people carting more stuff around in their car and getting more deliveries left at their door than any other time of the year.
And that poses a unique security dilemma for high-density living, where a cast of hundreds can work for you or against you.
Theoretically, a Neighborhood Watch can put more eyes on the street in a concentrated high-density area than in a single-family development with the same footprint, but you may not always know if that visitor is neighbor's guest or a prowler looking for a heist.
The key to any security effort is based on a simple premise -- if you don't make yourself a target, chances are, you won't be a victim. Never leave items in your car, even for brief periods, unless it's concealed in the truck or other area out of sight. If there's nothing to see, there's nothing to steal.
Thieves don't have your value system. What you believe is worthless could prompt a crook to smash your window for a quick grab. Plain-view-goodies amount to a Vegas jackpot for thieves looking to score five-finger discounts without the sweat of shopping around. Don't have packages left at your front door, especially if your door can be seen from the street or outside the community. Have someone pick up packages for you when you know they are due to arrive. Know when packages will arrive by tracking them with online tracking services offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel, Fed Ex, DHL and other carriers. Likewise, stop package, newspaper and other deliveries when you are away on vacation, for business or for other extended periods. It gives your house sitter fewer tasks to perform, it gives you piece of mind and it gives potential pilferers nothing to grab.
- Burglars look for occupancy cues like outdoor lights burning 24 hours a day, piled up newspapers, or advertising flyers hanging on the door knob. Use an inexpensive light timer.
- Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance. Don't hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges. Give the spare key to a trusted neighbor.
- Burglars prefer to enter through unlocked doors or windows. Sliding windows that are not secure can be seen from distance. Running outdoor Christmas light extension cords from an open window or door prevents it from being secured. Hire an electrician or handyman to install an inexpensive exterior outlet for your holiday lights.
- Don't post your family name on your mailbox or on your house. A burglar can call directory assistance, if your number is listed and call your home while in front of your house to confirm that you are away.
- Don't leave descriptive telephone answering machine messages that say you are away. Burglars appreciate knowing they have plenty of time to break in and ransack your home.
- After the holidays don't pile up empty gift boxes from your new iPod, high density DVD player, or big screen flat panel TV on the street for the garbage man and let burglars know what's inside your home. Break them down or cut them up to conceal the items better. After a lucrative burglary, the chances of being burglarized again are heightened. The crook assumes you've got replacement items.
- Keep your home fortified with solid core doors, heavy duty dead bolt locks, longer screws in the lock strike plates and door hinges, and secondary security devices on all accessible sliding windows.