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Securing your home for the holidays

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As the holiday season draws near, many students are counting down until they can return to the warmth of their mother's hugs and hot cocoa. Soon, they'll all be sitting around the table, yelling over their loud, drunk uncle.

As if the anxiety of dealing with family isn't enough, many students have to worry about leaving their homes empty for the duration of the break, knowing Santa Claus may not be the only guest stopping by while they're gone.

There are, however, many simple things you can do to burglar-proof your home.

Getting someone to check on your place once or twice while you're gone can save you the headache of coming back to a looted house.

"Have someone come to pick up your mail, shovel your walk and move your car if it's going to be left in the driveway," suggested Constable Kathy MacDonald of the Calgary Police Crime Prevention Unit. "Make sure you either have a timer on your lights or someone turning them on and off so it looks like your house is occupied."

Luckily for students living on campus, Campus Security staffing levels are maintained over the holiday season and floor managers stay in Residence to help protect students' property. Unfortunately, there are still instances every break which make for unhappy returns to school for some students.

"It seems that every year some students leave their windows open thinking they'll come home to a fresh room," said Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz. "Instead, the pipes freeze and burst and students come home to a water-damaged suite. Don't leave messages on your doors or answering machines advertising that you'll be away."

Students may also fear losing their works-in-progress.

"Things like laptops should be hidden well or left with someone while you're away," urged Fritz. "Also, make sure you back up any work before you leave."

Other suggestions include leaving curtains the way you normally have them. Or have someone open them in the morning and close them at night. A shuttered up house looks unoccupied.

Although expensive, students might want to consider buying a safe so if something does happen, valuables will be safer.

The simplest, yet overlooked, crime prevention technique is offered by Constable MacDonald.

"Make sure you lock the door whenever you go on holidays."

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Also remember to throw out all lettuce before you leave. Lettuce will take root in your fridge and grow at a phenomenal rate making your kitchen look like an Amazon rainforest.