What’s Under the Tree Can Attract a Very Un-merry Break-in

operations_centreThis is the time of year when somebody besides Santa could be interested in what goes under your Christmas tree.

All that loot wrapped and ready to be picked up represents a bonanza for enterprising thieves who can turn this into a very merry season for themselves and a dismal one for their victims.

“Break-ins hurt, but people can be hurt even more this week,” said Michael Jagger, president of Provident Security and Event Management. “Now is a busy time.

Michael Jagger in the alarm monitoring control room at Provident Security and Event Management.

“Much of property crime is opportunistic and there is no shortage of opportunity now.”

Police say Christmas shoppers can make it particularly easy for thieves, either by leaving bags full of presents in their cars while they continue to shop or stacking them early under the tree.

“It certainly can be a lucrative time for criminals,” said Const. Tim Fanning of the Vancouver police department. “Houses can be full of brand new gifts such as iPods, cellphones, computers — all wrapped up and under the tree.

“Every year we caution people, if you have a bunch of gifts, tuck them away in the house.

“We appreciate you can’t hide the new 50-inch TV, but if you went to Tiffany’s and bought that lovely $10,000 ring for your partner, make sure it is tucked away safe and sound until Christmas.”

Fanning said one of the biggest problems at this time of year is theft from autos.

“People throw bags into the car and go back into the mall to shop,” he said. “If you have to put them in the car, lock them in the trunk and make sure you don’t have a trunk release inside that is easily accessible.”

Fanning said sometimes thieves watch for people putting items in their trunks at the mall, but they usually won’t go on a fishing trip through locked trunks.

“But if you have bags from shops filling the back seat, they are going to be breaking into your car,” he said.

Fanning said 80 per cent of property crime is directly related to the city’s drug problem. Thieves are looking for items they can easily convert into cash for drugs.

Even with alarms blaring, they are liable to run through the house, calculating they can grab enough to make it worthwhile before they are interrupted. In the case of some alarms, that interruption could be a long time coming.

Provident guarantees its customers, within a certain area limited to Vancouver’s west side, that its security personnel will be on their premises within five minutes of an alarm sounding.

That means security in the home has to stall would-be thieves for at least that crucial first five minutes.

“You have to make it five-minute proof,” said Jagger. “Ninety-nine per cent of break-ins happen the same way — they kick in the front door, they use a screwdriver or crowbar and the door frame itself actually snaps.

“They go straight to the master bedroom, dump out the bedside drawers and check the closet for cash and jewelry.”

For businesses, Jagger said one of the more common ways to gain entry is through the drywall.

“They go straight for the servers and take the computer equipment,” he said.

People usually don’t think of bolstering their security until they have a break-in, according to Mitch Verigen, president of the B.C. Association of Security Professionals and owner of Keyhole Locksmith in Langley.

“We have noticed an increase like we do every year at this time,” he said. “We’re definitely increasing the strength in a lot of doors and putting in extra security, whether it’s plates or deadbolts or what not.”

Verigen said the focus on such lucrative hauls as copper has put even the wiring in apartments at risk.

“They break in to steal the copper,” he said.

Published December 22, 2006 · The Vancouver Sun · Written by Gillian Shaw

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