The grinch that stole Christmas (decorations)
December 16, 2009 8:24 AM   Subscribe

How do you stop Christmas decoration theft?

So, my neighbor has one of those awesome, totally kitschy Christmas displays with the lights, and blow-up snow-globes, and LED trees and spotlights , etc.
It's one of the things I look forward to after Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, since the world is full of, let's say, less than honest people, every year he loses a piece or two of decoration.
This year, one was stolen _the night it was put up_.

Needless to say, he's become somewhat tired of this, and the Christmas letter this year mentioned 2009 might be the final display.
Since I obviously can't sleep without the soft glow of 10,000 Christmas lights, I'm turning to you folks.

I'm in need of a method to either:
A) stop extension cords from being disconnected or
B) alert someone when they are.

I'm envisioning either a variant on those "quick lock" cord connectors or maybe a protective cover over plug connections for A.
For B, maybe something that all the cords can plug into to that sounds an alarm if something is removed?

It seems like this is something that has to have come up in the construction trade, or somewhere. But my google-fu has thus far failed me on keywords I think would be appropriate.

I'm also interested in how other poeple have dealt with this issue, methods etc.
But I'd like to get something tangible that I could give him to say, "C'mon, give it one more year"
posted by madajb to Home & Garden (24 answers total)
 
More info:
Cameras are a possibilty, but honestly, unless you got a direct, clear shot of someone in the act and a close-up of a license plate, odds are the police are going to do more or less nothing.

The decorations are turned off at night, which makes the inflatables easy to move.

It's a fairly well-traveled street during the day/evening, but in the early morning it's mostly abandoned.

Apparently digging man-traps with live polar bears is a violation of city code.
posted by madajb at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2009


Spotlights with a motion sensor, that he turns on when the lights go off?

It seems like this is something that has to have come up in the construction trade, or somewhere.

Construction people lock stuff up in boxes.
posted by smackfu at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2009


Motion-activated water sprinklers could work, depending on your location. Webcams can easily be set up as a motion-activated security camera, and from there alarms, bells, whistles, etc.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2009


Is it possible to secure things with something like computer cable locks? You could connect everything to a single steel cable.
posted by Behemoth at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2009


Construction people lock stuff up in boxes.

This is true, but i was thinking more along the lines of a disconnection alarm in that instance, as in:
"Buzz annoyingly until someone plugs the cement mixer back in"
posted by madajb at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2009


I'd suspect the people stealing things are doing it on impulse, like a kid doing it as a prank. You're not going to stop anyone who really wants the stuff. Even if you lock the cord someone could always cut it. Accept that if they want it, they'll get it one way or another. It is, after all, sitting on the guy's front lawn.

The key is to make it more difficult to just grab something and run away with it.

Use zip ties to fasten cords together. At the very least, the need for a wire cutter or knife will probably prevent most half-hearted attempts to steal the stuff.

Stake stuff to the ground, perhaps with the stake hidden a few feet away from the item, attached to the item with a thin cable that has some slack in it. When the prankster grabs something and runs away with it, he'll get a couple of feet and then the item will be jerked back. This will probably annoy and confuse the thief and he'll probably decide it's not worth the effort. His giggling friends who double-dog dared him to take the giant Frosty snow-globe will then encourage him to run away before Officer Dibble catches them and starts hollerin' at 'em.

Add a fake security camera or a "these premises protected by a camera / alarm / rabid coyote" sign and you're going to scare off the kids who are most likely doing this. I don't think real criminals are going to go after Christmas decorations.
posted by bondcliff at 8:48 AM on December 16, 2009


This is what Christmas has come to?

If you're serious about this, set up a web cam with a motion sensor, tied back to an alarm that you can hear. When it goes off, go outside and spread some Christmas cheer to the would-be thieves.
posted by ellF at 8:57 AM on December 16, 2009


Half case of beer, lawn chair and a BB gun. Problem solved (and a throughly enjoyable evening).
posted by LakesideOrion at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


In my parent's neighborhood it was high school kids doing the stealing / vandalizing and what mostly stopped it was some of them being caught in a homeowner stakeout and having their parents notified. They might also have been arrested, I don't remember.
posted by ghharr at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2009


The decorations are turned off at night, which makes the inflatables easy to move.

If he can handle the electric bill, leave them on at night. Not too many people are going to be brave enough to try to make off with a brightly lit inflatable snowman.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2009


The lock box at the bottom of this page would work, if you drilled another hole for the second cord. OTOH, it's $25.

Cord Connect is much cheaper but it doesn't have a real lock. It would be a decent deterrent.
posted by smackfu at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2009


stop extension cords from being disconnected or

Fake Dog Turd across the cords.
Or, you can go green and use the real thing/mad-made equivalent.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:43 AM on December 16, 2009


tie the end of the plug to the end of the extension cord. duct tape the knot. that's a lof of work for people who are running and grabbing to be annoying, right?
posted by bDiddy at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2009


Maybe keep a glowing Jesus on at night to guilt people into to good behavior.
posted by travis08 at 9:51 AM on December 16, 2009


I'm in need of a method to [...] stop extension cords from being disconnected

I recently had an extension cable which I didn't want to get 'borrowed', so I purchased an inexpensive padlock, then I looped the extension cable around a secure post and padlocked it to itself. As the plug and socket on the extension cable were too large to fit through the padlock, it could not be removed without either cutting the cable, or unscrewing the plug or socket.

Needless to say, not 100% secure, but it made 'borrowing' sufficiently inconvenient that nobody bothered.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:06 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a job for my favorite plastic items: cable ties (already mentioned above). Cable-tying cords together in multiple places will cause a big hassle, maybe cable-tying cords to something that can't be moved.
posted by tippiedog at 10:16 AM on December 16, 2009


Actual dog turd in the yard around the decorations should do the trick.
posted by The World Famous at 10:21 AM on December 16, 2009


What about those little cheap battery-operated mini contact alarms that you can get in any hardware store, that are meant for windows and doors, but which you can use on anything that has two surfaces that abut. If the connection is broken, an alarm sounds.

So where the extension cables are joined, you put the bigger 'alarm' part on one joint and line up the contact part on the second one. When they're plugged in, there's no sound, but once they're pulled apart, it's a surprisingly loud noise that will likely deter any thief and will definitely alert the neighbours.
posted by essexjan at 10:39 AM on December 16, 2009


Half case of beer, lawn chair and a BB gun. Problem solved (and a throughly enjoyable evening).

This is a very ill-conceived idea, and absolutely not in the spirit of the discussion. Remember, it's Christmas!

This means you ambush them with the garden hose, and watch 'em shiver their asses off as they run away screaming. Hypothermia and frostbite and water-damaged car seats are the gifts that keep on giving.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:03 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your options are about making it difficult and/or making it useless to take anything. Duct tape, padlocked cables, and the like are all good suggestions in this regard.
posted by davejay at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2009


JeremiahBritt: "Motion-activated water sprinklers could work, depending on your location."

If the OP lives anywhere cold, I'm thinking sprinklers are going to freeze up.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:03 PM on December 16, 2009


I think a sign saying "Your being watched" like the stores have near the display. Or "smile your on camera". Put it in full sight. You could also ( or not) set up a box with something that looks like a camera lens on it ( maybe in a tree) with a cord running to the house. Have a fake red power light that would make it appear on. Even if they don't totally believe it, they might think twice about coming back. Or if your handy, make up a real box with the motion sensor spotlights on it near the display. Again making it obvious its there. It would have to be weatherproof though meaning the wiring and all electrical connections. Another idea, leave a porch light on ( or equivalent) so that the area is lit up. But I think if you could have some one wait up late, keep it dark, catch them and turn the lights on while they are in the act is a good one. If you do this, make out like your on the phone while watching them.
posted by Taurid at 10:20 PM on December 16, 2009


If the OP lives anywhere cold, I'm thinking sprinklers are going to freeze up.

Cold, no. Always raining, yes. heh.
posted by madajb at 12:48 AM on December 17, 2009


Thanks folks for the suggestions, folks.

I had considered most of the suggestions offered, I was hoping to to find something I could give as a gift, but it doesn't seem like it's out there.

As satisfying as camping out and catching the perpetrators in the act would be, it's not really practical, as they seem to have much more free time than I do.

The door/window chime did give me an idea, which I'm going to investigate.
posted by madajb at 12:55 AM on December 17, 2009


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