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Beware of holiday crime
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The holiday and Christmas shopping season officially starts Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving. It is a time during which some extra precautions for personal and property safety are in order. This year, with the bad economy and seemingly increased numbers of early-release prisoners on our streets, the police are preparing for a higher incidence of burglaries from autos, more shoplifting incidents, more beggars, and a greater number of theft-type crimes in general.

Ceres police officers and 9-1-1 dispatchers are urging citizens, first and foremost, to never leave purses, jewelry, cell phones, watches, or any other items of value in their cars. 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. Most people equate Christmas and New Years with pleasant times, but the congested shopping environments and roadways can lead to conflict between people. The police usually see an increase in road rage, parking space competition, arguments, and other problems during this time. These kinds of problems are all avoidable - it all boils down to our individual attitudes. 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!