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Guard against holiday season crime

POSTED December 14, 2011 8:15 a.m.
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The Christmas holiday season is in full swing. Shopping centers and stores throughout this area are busy with people buying gifts for families and friends, parking lots are filled and congested and people seem to be in hurry everywhere. Overall, things are good, but the thieves are hitting is hard! This is no time to forget about how vulnerable your possessions are.

There are a number of reasons why you have to be so careful about protecting your possessions. The holiday season generally is a period of increased thefts anyway, but now with the mass release of prisoners and the criminal justice system's inability to confine all of the people who need to be behind bars, there are simply more criminals on the loose than during previous times. Some people think that the unemployment situation brings out more thieves, but I am hesitant to believe that. Just because people have lost their jobs does not automatically cause them to resort to stealing. I think the jobless people go without, rather than turn to thievery. Nevertheless, people who already lead criminal lives tend to take advantage of the Holiday Season. Do not let them take advantage of you.

Local communities are experiencing plenty of thefts from autos, but these are relatively avoidable. The biggest and most common mistake people make is that they leave phones, purses, wallets, keys, sunglasses, computers, GPS devices, medications, presents and other items of value in their cars. To make matters worse, these items are often left in plain view for the thieves to see.

No amount of effort to hide these items will deter thieves. They watch people as they leave their cars so, for example, a woman who has no purse in possession is presumed to have left it behind in the vehicle. Thieves also watch as potential victims act to conceal their valuables before locking up and walking away from their cars. During darkness, park your car in a well-lighted area, close all the windows, lock the doors, and look around for suspicious persons before exiting the vehicle. Many retail outlets have security staff patrolling the parking lots. Be sure to let them and/or the police know when you observe any suspicious activity.

When shopping and accumulating presents, we recommend that you not leave these items in the car as you go to different stores, unless you feel that the parking lot security is sufficient. Otherwise, transport them home.

I suggest that shoppers travel in pairs, keeping purses and wallets securely in possession. Stores tend to be crowded making it easier for pick-pocket and purse thieves to steal these items from you. Never leave your purse in a shopping cart for even a few seconds! If you do leave a purse or wallet in a cart, plan on having it stolen, because there are almost always thieves looking for the opportunity to steal these things.

The holiday season need not be a time to become a victim of any crime. Prevention, through planning and common sense, is the key to this kind of safety. Just being aware of the fact that our society has thieves-in-waiting goes a long way towards crime prevention. Be aware of the people in your surrounding area. If they look like they are "casing" you or your property, then you must take steps to protect yourself and your property. Thieves like to steal from people who are absorbed in doing other things, taking them totally by surprise.

There is one final consideration in dealing with some of the stressors that come up during the holiday season. Try to be courteous while on the roadways, in parking lots, and in stores; do not let tempers flare, help others when possible and keep a smile on your face. These behaviors can make the difference between having a great holiday season instead of a troubled one. I wish you all a safe and pleasant season!
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