House 'guests' potential thieves

By Cassandra Mason

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Papamoa Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Lorraine Stevens said it was important people remembered to be vigilant throughout the summer months.
Papamoa Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Lorraine Stevens said it was important people remembered to be vigilant throughout the summer months.

Tauranga residents should be careful who they invite into their home over this Christmas season because if something gets stolen, insurance might not cover it.

AA Insurance is warning holiday-makers to be wary when they open their doors, whether it be to friends, acquaintances or someone doing work around the house.

Giving a person consent to go inside means they are considered a "guest". The same goes if they are invited in by other people living in the household.

"If you're having a party and are concerned about your valuables, then take steps to keep them safe and out of view, monitor who is invited into your home, and be careful not to extend an open invitation to people who you have not met," AA head of customer relations Suzanne Wolton said.

One AA customer lost $7800 worth of jewellery and alcohol when her teenage son had a party that got out of hand.

Even though the son didn't know some of the guests, the thefts weren't covered because he willingly let them into the home.

Another had her credit card, watch and clothing stolen by a handyman who was painting her bathroom.

Because he had permission to be on the property, she wasn't covered.

Tauranga Police Senior Sergeant Rob Glencross said opportunistic crime increased at this time of year.

"It's hot so people tend to leave house windows open, and are slightly less careful about security because the comfort sometimes comes into play."

Thieves not only targeted homes, but cars as well.

"Guys just wander down the road and try door handles. It's amazing how many cars are left unlocked."

An influx of people to Tauranga at this time of year meant more people and more opportunities for crime.

"Locks are only good if you use them, alarms are only good if they're turned on. Check with your neighbours and arrange to have your mail stopped."

Papamoa Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Lorraine Stevens said she always reminded people to be vigilant around the festive season.

"Obviously there's an influx of people," she said. "Part of our email that goes out is just be aware. Don't leave your presents under the tree in full view. Be aware, be vigilant and just look after each other really. That's what it's all about."

If going away you should stop your mail, put a "no circulars" sticker on your letterbox, get neighbours to clear your mail, leave a lamp on a timer and make sure the curtains were left open, she said.

It was also the ideal time to record the serial numbers of possessions on www.snap.org.nz, she said.

According to a recent AA Insurance home security survey, four in 10 New Zealanders have experienced a break-in or burglary, with close to a quarter of break-ins happening when people were away for more than 24 hours.

"It's a good rule to tell your neighbours when you're away so they can keep an eye out for people or vehicles around the property that aren't normally there," Ms Wolton said.

"However, refrain from announcing that you're on holiday on social media. Unless you have very strict privacy settings, you may inadvertently inform people you don't know that your home will be empty."

Police are also calling on people to be vigilant on Christmas Day, even though many criminals appeared to "take a holiday".

National prevention manager Bruce Bird said the rate of criminal offending usually dropped about 27 per cent on Christmas Day.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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