Toronto

'Tis the season for break-ins, experts warn

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you’re a bad guy. Between holiday shoppers stuffing their vehicles with presents at mall parking lots, and homeowners heading out of town to visit family, it’s prime time for burglars.

CBC Toronto surveys the experts to help protect you from bad guys this holiday season

Paul Seidman, owner of Pre-Lock Security Services in Thornhill. sells gadgets that can make it seem like you're home for the holidays, even if you're not. (Grant Linton / CBC Toronto)

It's the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you're a bad guy.

Between shoppers stuffing their vehicles with presents at mall parking lots, and homeowners heading out of town to celebrate, the holidays are prime time for burglars.

CBC Toronto talked with several experts around the city to help you protect your home, and your holiday haul this December.

Protect your home: the lived in look

"Home Alone had the right idea of making the house looked lived in," joked Paul Seidman, referring to the classic '90s holiday movie.

After being left behind by mistake over the Christmas holidays, Macaulay Culkin's character fools would-be robbers by pretending his home is full of family.

Seidman, who owns Pre-Lock Security Services, says decades later there's still a valuable lesson to be learned.

The hugely popular '90s movie, Home Alone, illustrates an ongoing problem: burglars targetting homes while people are away during the holidays. (20th Century Fox)

"We actually try to implement a lot of the things seen on Home Alone," said Seidman.

That means plenty of lighting, but he recommends more than just your typical timers.

Light it up

Seidman uses a product called Wemo in his own home. From his mobile phone, he can turn lights off and on, and program them to light up at different times of day, for everyday of the week.

Some of the gadgets to keep your home looking 'lived in' while you're away on holidays. (Grant Linton)

The app also sends push notifications when someone switches on a light.

"If you're away on a holiday and someone is turning on your lights when no one is supposed to be home, you know someone is home," said Seidman.

Fake it

His store also sells gadgets that make it look like someone is cozied up at home, from a fake TV — a light projected against a wall — to a stereo that plays a recording of a dog barking.

"There's no point in being a victim if you can make them go somewhere else, by annoying a burglar," said Seidman.

Protect your vehicle: lock it or lose it

Shopping mall parking lots can also be easy pickings.

"There's many Grinches out there trying to steal Christmas for many people," said Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff McGuire, at the launch of this year's Lock It or Lose It campaign.

"Let's make sure the Grinch doesn't win."

Is retail rudeness getting worse? (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Car breaks-ins are up this year, according to McGuire. As part of the campaign, which is hosted by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, officers carry out security blitzes in parking lots.

If they spot unlocked doors, or valuables in plain view, officers put leaflets under the windshield, reminding drivers to be more careful.

#LockItOrLoseIt is used by police services across the province to remind drivers to keep valuables out-of-sight. (Niagara Regional Police Service)

Move it

Seidman also has an idea for shoppers at the mall.

If you want to unload some parcels but have more shopping to do, lock them in your trunk, then move your vehicle to a new spot — in case you're being watched by thieves.

"I know it's hard to find another parking spot, and probably you're lucky you got the first one. But spend the time to make it look like you're not doing what the intruders expect you to do," Seidman said.

"Do the opposite. Move and you won't get broken into."

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.