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Police: Watch out for holiday crimewave

4:00AM Wednesday Dec 17, 2008

By Beck Vass

Police and the Insurance Council are warning New Zealanders to brace for a summer holiday crimewave.

Council figures show claims - including burglaries and car thefts - total $250 million a year, or more than $475 every minute.

An AA Insurance Home Security Index survey yesterday showed a 20 per cent increase in burglary claims on last year for the three months to November.

The company would not reveal the number of burglaries in that time, saying it was "sensitive" information, but deputy general manager Martin Fox said the rise was significant.

The AA survey interviewed 1567 people aged between 18 and 75 and found that 44 per cent sometimes leave home without turning on a burglar alarm.

Thirty-six per cent left front or back door unlocked, 29 per cent did not lock windows and 27 per cent did not use deadlocks.

Twenty-six per cent admitted leaving spare keys in obvious places such as under doormats or pot plants.

"This is like leaving a welcome mat out for thieves," Mr Fox said.

"Obvious places around the household entrance are among the first places a thief will check before breaking into a home."

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan told the Herald that a rise in burglaries was usual in any holiday period.

He said burglars were targeting more expensive items, including big-screen television sets, PlayStation 3 consoles, iPods and laptop computers.

"There hasn't been a dramatic increase in the number of burglaries - it's climbing but it's not out of control - but there is an increase in the value of the things that people are stealing."

Police statistics show the Auckland region had 22,028 burglaries - more than 60 every day - in the year to June 30.

Nationally, police expect increases in burglaries and thefts of and from cars this month because as the weather warms people are more likely to leave doors open and be out of their homes.

Police say that school holidays, when the number of unsupervised youths increases, and Christmas, when people are under pressure to provide for their families, are also factors in the annual rise.

Manukau Senior Sergeant Richard Wilkie said police were prepared for the crimewave.

"It's the busiest period because the elements that you have are school holidays - our youth are a problem in a lot of the suburbs - and people go out of Auckland on holiday."

Mr Wilkie said the economic crisis and Christmas were also factors in the expected rise in crime.

"People that don't have it want to go and get it, and people that can't afford it still stress themselves out and try to provide for their families."

Tips to keep your home safe:

Make sure you have good locks - police advise deadlocks - on doors and windows, and remember to use them.

Join a neighbourhood support group.

Hide tools and ladders that could be used in a break-in.

Get an alarm and remember to turn it on.

Install sensor lights on paths and near external doors.

Trim trees and remove shrubbery which might hide a burglar's activity.

Get housesitters or neighbours to check your property and collect mail if you are going away.

Make sure your answerphone does not reveal that you are away.

Don't leave a key hidden outside.

Tell your neighbours if you have been the victim of a burglary.

Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10548442

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