Displaying gifts under the Christmas tree can be an attraction for burglars on the lookout during the festive period, gardai have warned.
Chief Crime Prevention Officer, Inspector Barry Mills recommends that fake presents should be put under the tree in the run up to Christmas Eve, especially in place of electronic devices that can be sold quickly.
"In the run up to Christmas, a lot of people have Christmas trees and presents under the Christmas tree.
"Really, you would recommend that they would be dummy presents. If you didn’t have confidence in that your house is secure you wouldn't be leaving valuables under the tree," he told Independent.ie.
"That’s going to be a natural focal point for the criminal when they break in. They might have something in a box ready to go, perhaps with a receipt. That’s as good as cash."
Research by gardai has shown that cash and jewellery are the most common objects stolen from homes, followed by computers, phones, TVs and game consoles.
Inspector Mills said: "They’re looking for valuables. They’re looking for quick sells, quick transitions. So the likes of phones, laptops, electronic devices and obviously, it's better to not have cash or jewellery at home.
“If they can get cash, it’s bingo for them. They’ve got what they’ve come looking for."
Homeowners should make sure to secure all windows and doors if going out, and should use light timers to give the appearance that someone is home.
"Your house should be well lit, there shouldn't be too much encroachment of your bushes that would allow a criminal to scope out your house easily without surveillance.
"The likes of CCTV cameras or other overt things in your house that would allow somebody to think this house is being watched," Inspector Mills added.
Meanwhile, alarm providers PhoneWatch have advised for the public to wait until collection day before discarding packaging, as leaving out the box of a brand new phone or tablet on top of the green bin can attract thieves.
The group also warned homeowners to avoid leaving keys on hall tables, or near doors, as these could be fished out through letterboxes. Equally, keys should not be left under plant pots.
Eoin Dunne, Managing Director of PhoneWatch said: "Thankfully, the national burglary rate has fallen so far in 2019. However, the risks remain high at this time of year. It is important to always remain vigilant and take proactive measures to maximise your home’s security.
"While being the victim of a burglary is always upsetting, it can be particularly distressing at this time of year.
"Unfortunately, around Christmas time is peak ‘burglary season’ and all of the shopping, Christmas parties, and social gatherings mean our homes are more likely to be unoccupied. There are plenty of simple tips that we should all remember to ensure that our homes are secure and look occupied."