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Halloween home security tips: Your guide to avoiding holiday mischief and mayhem

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There’s nothing quite like a Halloween celebration. As songs like “Thriller” and “The Monster Mash” play on the radio, kids (and sometimes adults) dress up in costumes with various levels of creativity. And the candy — oh, don’t forget about the candy. Sugar rushes abound as we throw caution to the wind and indulge on another fun-sized Three Musketeers or Snickers, howling in delight all night long.

While there’s plenty to enjoy about the holiday, there are also a few things to watch out for. With the neighborhood out in full force, there’s greater potential for mischief. That mischief can turn dangerous in the wrong hands, so it’s best to be prepared.  

After all, you don’t want to end up like Charlie Brown and get an unwanted rock thrown your way. Here are some home security tips to make sure your Halloween is more treats than tricks.

Stay home and turn your lights on

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The best way to minimize the risk of someone attacking your house? Be home. If someone sees the lights on and people moving around, they’re less likely to try to get inside the house and commit an act of vandalism.

Having lights on outside is a good idea, too. Not only are you alerting people that you’re home, you’re also giving them a nice pathway to walk up to your doorway — or contactless candy chute — while trick-or-treating.

If you have motion sensors or timed lights, that can be another way to ensure your house stays safe, even if you’re not home for part of the evening. If you do pop out, ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things. Since trick-or-treaters tend to head back home shortly after the sun fully sets, there’s still plenty of time in the night for someone with more malice on their mind to make a move.

The majority of burglaries occur during the day because burglars assume residents won’t be home then. But if they think you’re out during Halloween, they might take it as an invitation to walk right on in. 

Set your cameras and alarms

If ever there were a time to activate your home security cameras, it’s during Halloween. Vandalism is more prevalent, and there are 17% more crime-related claims reported on the holiday than on other days. 

Some of the damage may be more minor, like attacking a mailbox or throwing toilet paper over your house. But other acts might be more destructive, which could lead to you needing to file an insurance claim.

Make sure your cameras and alarms are visible, too — often the mere presence of a security camera or alarm system will make a trickster think twice before committing an act of vandalism. In fact, 83% of would-be burglars check for the presence of an alarm system before attempting a break-in, and homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be broken into and burglarized. 

Halloween is a time to show off your style with costumes — but you can also show off your preparedness against thieves.

Get your car off the street

A car on the street is more of a target than one that’s in the driveway. Ideally, keep your car parked in the garage and out of sight.

Though many trick-or-treaters are just on the hunt for candy, there may be someone caught up in the spirit a little too much, turning the night from a casual stroll around the neighborhood into a scene from The Purge. They might break car windows, slash tires or key car doors.

Or, even worse, they might steal your car entirely. Halloween is a major holiday for vehicle thefts, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports. In 2019, nearly 2,200 cars were stolen on Halloween. That’s about an 11% increase from the average daily number of vehicles stolen, per the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting.  

Drunk driving is also a concern. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers in fatal crashes is more than three times higher at night than during the day. And from 2015 to 2019 (the most recent year the NHTSA has reviewed), 41% of people killed on Halloween night were in traffic crashes that involved at least one drunk driver. Your car being on the street offers one more obstacle in the way, so it’s best to get it out of the way entirely if you can. 

While you’re at it, remove any other items from your lawn, too. Smaller-sized items like a bicycle, grill, lawnmower or yard decorations are all potential targets for someone set on a spooktacular evening.

Watch your decorations

Carving pumpkins and creating jack o’ lanterns are classic Halloween traditions. You might also be a house that goes all out on the decor, from extensive light shows to giant mobile skeletons or monsters.

All of those decorations have one thing in common: the potential to start a fire. Per the National Fire Protection Association, an annual average of 7,610 home fires are started by candles, which are a common element of jack o’ lanterns and other Halloween goodies. And on average, more than 900 of those fires were triggered by holiday decorations.

An open flame can ignite furniture inside, such as drapes or tablecloths, or nature outside, like a pile of leaves. Other crafting materials, like dried flowers or crepe paper can also easily catch fire.

Instead of a live flame, you can use a battery-operated candle or glowsticks. Be sure to read the instructions for any electrical lighting to avoid potential malfunctions. And always keep all exit doors free of decorations so you can escape if the worst case scenario happens. 

Keep your pets inside

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Even if your pet is generally friendly, Halloween isn’t a typical night. The hustle and bustle of people coming up to your door and knocking on it or ringing the bell is confusing and can lead to anxiety. Add to that the fact that most people approaching your house will be in costume, and a pet might run off or bite a trick-or-treater.

Keep your nervous pet inside, ideally away from the front door. If you need to, you can crate them or keep them in a separate room. However, if they’re completely alone in a room, keep a light on and play some music to maintain a comfortable environment for them, which can help alleviate some of their stress.

You may also decide to dress your pets up in a costume — Americans spend nearly half a billion dollars doing so. Try to avoid any costumes with excessive fabric or material. Animals don’t always have the best spatial awareness, and navigating the world with an outfit on could lead to things getting knocked over and damaged.

Despite an influx of monsters, goblins and ghouls roaming the streets, Halloween doesn’t need to be a spooky time. You can have a safe and enjoyable evening free of the ultimate scare — unexpected insurance claims — if you prepare a bit in advance. Happy Halloween!

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