Make your home look occupied while you're on holidays - Tips from Gardaí

Make your home look occupied while you're on holidays - Tips from Gardaí

Burglar casing out a house

As a member of the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) An Garda Síochána in conjunction with fellow (EUCPN) police services in Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland and Romania join forces to prevent domestic burglary in the EU.

The main goal of the campaign is to step up the fight against burglaries by warning and informing EU citizens on how they can prevent burglaries themselves.

Garda Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Graham Kavanagh said “An Garda Síochána are happy to support this European burglary prevention initiative. Whilst burglary rates have been falling, particularly in winter months, we cannot be complacent.

"I would advise home owners to secure their properties during the summer months, where one in four burglars enter the property through an open door or window.

"Thefts of tools, equipment and bicycles increase by a third during the summer. An unlocked shed or unsecured bike are easy targets for the burglar.

"Remember to make your home look occupied, particularly if you intend to be away for an extended period.

"Once your home is locked and alarmed, ask a neighbour to regularly check your property, use timer switches or apps to turn on lights, cancel deliveries, tidy the garden and watch what you post on social media. Keep the surprises for your holiday and not when you return.”

Home Security

Whether at home or going out, turn on some lights, use timer switches.

Lock all doors and windows, almost 1 in 4 Summer time burglaries involve entry through an unsecured access point.
Use your house alarm.

Store keys safely; away from windows and letterboxes.

Record details of valuables and don’t keep large cash amounts at home.

Vacant Houses

If your home is going to be vacant during the summer period;

Ask a trusted neighbour or family member to conduct frequent checks of the property at different times of the day to note any signs of trespassing or interference.
Ensure the house alarm is set.
Check all doors and windows are secure. (Use deadbolt locks if property is to be vacant for long periods).
Install timers on internal lights and motion detectors on external lights to make the house appear occupied and offer natural surveillance of the property.
Ensure that the building doesn't look neglected. Cut the grass, trim hedges etc.
Ask a neighbour to collect post or if you are going to be away for longer periods arrange a ‘mail minder’ service with An Post to retain post for collection and place a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign on letter-box.
Inform the local Garda station about the premises being vacant to afford passing attention on patrols.

Social Media
If you are going on holiday and your home is going to be vacant, be mindful of what you post on social media. Even if you have enabled strict privacy settings, your holiday plans could be shared with unscrupulous people.

Don't post status updates about your holidays while you're still away.
Don't post pictures while you're away.
Respect other people’s privacy, don't tag others while you and they are on holidays.
Avoid posting upcoming travel plans.
Consider turning off the location sharing setting of your phone's camera app.

Garden/ Landscaping

Don’t help the burglar; safely store away ladders, tools etc.
Use quality locks on Garden sheds, chain valuable property, tools, bikes, etc. within.
Property mark and photograph valuable possessions.
Tidy up gardens and shrubbery, this improves visibility and creates the illusion of an occupied home.
Consider defensive planting, e.g. thorny plants around the perimeter, for extra security.
A barrier of prickly hedge along your boundary or underneath a window will help deter thieves. Hedges and shrubs in the front garden should be kept to a height of no more than 3 feet in order to avoid giving a burglar a screen behind which he can conceal himself.

Home security and Burglary Prevention Advice

Check out the Garda's popular 'Lock Up Light Up' anti-burglary which encourages homeowners to protect their property during winter, when residential burglaries traditionally rise.

Signs of vacancy
The majority of burglaries take place in unoccupied homes. The following are some of the things a burglar looks for:

No lights on at night, or just ‘dead’ lights on (porch, hall)
Lights on constantly during the day
Blinds pulled down, or curtains across during the day
A build-up of papers and/or flyers in the letter box
A build-up of letters in the hall or porch visible from outside
A build-up of milk on the door-step
Front gates closed and no car in the driveway
Notes left for delivery men or callers
Uncut lawn and untidy garden
Most burglars are opportunists and will select the easiest target that they can find.  Don’t offer them assistance by:

Leaving any window open.  Some people do this for ventilation forgetting that burglars will take advantage of the smallest opening
Leaving external doors unlocked
Leaving a key on a string, under a doormat, or in some other ‘good hiding place’ outside
Failing to secure side doors, allowing entry to the back of the premises, which is more vulnerable to attack
Failing to keep garages and sheds locked.  Not only do they contain valuable property, but also tools which may help the burglar gain access to your home.
Burglars prefer to enter homes through a door because, if disturbed the open door provides the quickest escape route.

Whether an intruder will gain access to your home through your external doors may depend on:

the strength of the construction material
the quality of the locks
proper fitting and installation
If you are replacing your doors, you should consider doors that have already passed stringent security tests, such as PAS 24 2016, or for higher levels of security, doors meeting Irish & EU Burglar Resistant Security Standard IS EN 1627:2011.

Additional locks and limiters may be added for extra security. Remember to lock your doors. One in five burglars will enter a home via an unlocked door or window.

Click here for more information on doors

More than a third of burglars will enter your property through a window. A window’s individual vulnerability will depend on three main factors:

The accessibility of the window
The quality of the fabrication, strength and installation of the window
The visibility of the window to neighbours or passers-by
We can reduce their attraction as an entry point for the burglar by trying to minimize these risk features.

Windows manufactured to comply with the European standard I.S. EN 1627:2011 or the British security standard for doors & windows PAS 24-2016 or equivalent are recommended as these will have been subjected to specific security and burglar resistance tests.

Additional locks and limiters may be added for extra security. Remember to lock your windows. One in five burglars will enter a home via an unlocked door or window.

It is widely accepted that appropriate lighting can help to reduce crime and act as an effective deterrent to burglars. Appropriate lighting will help to make your home more visible to neighbours and passers-by; thereby increasing the likelihood of discovering unwanted intruders and trespassers. Lighting also helps to reduce the fear of crime.

When installing security lighting, please consider each of the following:

Avoid the creation of shadows and dark areas
Position the light fitting out of reach
Aim for a uniform light level
Direct the light beam appropriately
Consider your neighbours
Avoid light pollution
Click here for more information on lighting


It is widely accepted that intruder alarms are an effective deterrent against burglars, thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of your home being targeted. However, it is important to understand that an intruder alarm is not a replacement for good physical security. It should, rather, be regarded as a back-up to good physical and other security measures and precautions employed to protect your home.

All installed alarms should comply with the European Standard EN 50131. All alarm installers and installation companies must now be licensed by the Private Security Authority. A list of all licensed installers is available on their website. It is important to understand how your alarm system operates. Your installer should explain the operation of the system to you and all other members of your family. Insist on a training session to demonstrate its features. Do not write alarm codes etc. on the instruction manual or on walls or doors near the control unit or keypad. 


Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.