Like the full moon and daylight savings time, Halloween is associated with a spike in abnormal behavior. Crime, both property and violent, track upwards on October 31st according to police data and criminologist studies.
“The evening violent crime count on October 31 is about 50 percent higher than on any other date during the year.”
– James Alan Fox, Northeastern University criminology professor
Taking precautions to secure your home can guard against becoming a victim of either crime type. James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, points out that while Halloween, New Years, and Independence Day all see spikes in violent crime (many cities deploy extra police units on all three holidays), Halloween night is particularly dangerous. “The evening violent crime count on October 31 is about 50 percent higher than on any other date during the year,” Fox reports.
Halloween property damage by the numbers
According to data from Travelers insurance, crime-related insurance claims spike on Halloween. The lion’s share of those claims (79%) involve home burglary and property damage.
It’s very likely that a great deal more theft and vandalism occur on Halloween than makes it into claims reports. Property crime, particularly on Halloween, can be petty — smashed pumpkins, a scrawl of graffiti. Too small to make a claim when homeowners insurance policies typically carry deductibles of $500 to $1,000.
Crime-related insurance claims spike on Halloween. 79% of them involve home burglary and property damage.
Still, even as Halloween earns its reputation as a frightening night, the trend may be slackening. Travelers reported a 24% spike in crime-related claims in 2016, but a 17% spike in 2018.
The major home security lesson of Halloween is to guard yourself against crimes of opportunity. Halloween seems to invite havoc. Sometimes, taking advantage of an easy target can escalate to committing a serious crime.
The season change makes a case for home security
If you’ve been toying with the idea of installing a security system, whether professionally monitored or self-monitored, Halloween could be the perfect time to start. By late October, the nights are long. Civil twilight — when the sun is less than six degrees below the horizon, the last part of the day before we need artificial light — ends before 7pm in most of the U.S. A security system protects against criminals who work in the cover of darkness.
October is also smack dab in back-to-work, back-to-school, and back-to-sports season, when the house is probably left empty much more often than during summer. Burglars tend to take advantage of that reliable daytime absence. Security systems protect against those criminals, too.
Make your house look lived in
Whether you are staying in to hand out candy or headed out in full costume, your house should appear the same to passersby: Bright, awake, and secure.
- Install an outdoor security light. A simple motion detecting light does the trick, but you could also invest in a camera floodlight. Ring and Kuna both have impressive models that serve as complete smart home security systems.
- Keep indoor lights on, particularly bedroom and bathroom lights.
- Use blinds and curtains strategically — all closed could signal an empty house, but you want to keep valuable, enticing objects out of view.
- Keep doors and windows locked.
- Securing your house for Halloween also makes for a good opportunity to put lawn furniture and other big-ticket items in storage. Grills, lawn mowers, bicycles — in short, anything that could be easily stolen — should make their way into garden sheds and garages.
Don’t forget your car
According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, Halloween sees more vehicle vandalism claims than any other day of the year, leaving the year’s other major carousing holidays — July 4th and New Years — in the dust.
- If you have the option of parking your car in a garage, do so. Your car will be safest off the street and out of sight.
- If you don’t have a garage option, your car should be empty and locked.
- Make sure the alarm system is enabled — on most models, this just means hitting the lock button on the key fob.
Plan for trick-or-treaters
There seems to be three schools of thought on receiving trick-or-treaters. A) Go all out; B) Buy a couple bags of Snickers; or C) Play nobody home.
Wherever you land on the practice, you will likely have some knocks on the door.
- Make sure walkways are clear and well-lit. Extension cords for Halloween decor pose a common threat.
- Consider you light sources — open flames are a risky choice; incandescent bulbs get hot; both should be kept far from fabric.
- Make sure that decorations don’t obscure a good view of what’s happening around your front stoop — you want to be able to see who’s at the door.
- When you decide to stop answering the door, keep outdoor lights on for everyone’s safety.
Don’t forget your own trick-or-treaters’ safety
Children aren’t likely out in such numbers any other night of the year. Prep your kids and their costumes for a safe route.
- Choose bright-colored costumes that are more visible at night
- Avoid highly flammable costume fabrics. While all fabric will burn, natural fibers like cotton and fluffy, high-pile fabrics ignite and burn readily. Tightly-woven, heavy fabrics like wool don’t. A pea coat makes the perfect costume topper, at least between stops.
- Wrap props and candy buckets with reflective tape.
- Remind kids how difficult it can be for drivers to spot pedestrians at night — never assume a car sees you and will stop in time.
Double check security devices
If you’ve outfitted your home with security cameras, discovering that they were offline or out of battery when you needed them would be a ghastly discovery on November 1st. Keep an eye on your home’s internet connection throughout the evening. Check on your camera’s live feed before bed.
Don’t work yourself into a fright
Your home’s level of safety on Halloween depends on many variables, not least of which is your city and neighborhood. Other variables: Whether Halloween falls on or near the weekend, versus, say, a Tuesday. Weekends always see more drunkenness, robbery, and general rabble-rousing. Weather also plays a role. Revelers and robbers alike are more likely to stay in if faced with cold rain rather than a crisp October night. A last, general tip when leaving your house empty: Don’t advertise it. Keep your All Hallow’s Eve plans off social media till All Hallow’s Day.