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Get into a winter mindset
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It may not seem like it with the recent warm, windless days, but winter is coming. This means that the number of daylight hours will be fewer, mornings will be chilly and, because of the shorter daylight hours, there are more opportunities for criminals to steal and commit other crimes under the cover of darkness. Traffic conditions also become more challenging with inclement weather, fog and rain, in particular, and commuters will be traveling when it is dark.

There are many considerations to be had in connection with winter, but one of the most preventable problems is auto theft. Many people leave their cars running for a morning warm-up, so that when it is time to drive, they can get into a car that has a warm interior and windows defogged. It is entirely a comfort issue, but leaving a car unattended and running makes for any easy theft target - and it does not matter if the doors are left locked.

The police are quite aware that auto thieves, who travel on foot, bicycles and in other cars, cruise the neighborhoods in search of a running car to steal. Locked doors make no difference because they can break a window or use other means to gain entry - and they can do so in mere seconds. This practice of morning car warm-ups is one of the reasons why our county has ranked so high in the United States in terms of the per capita number of auto thefts every year. Regardless, it is highly inconvenient to lose your car to a thief, and more often than not, if the car is recovered, it will have been damaged and abused.

In terms of protecting your property and possessions, it pays to take a few preventative measures to minimize your potential for falling victim to thefts. Make sure you keep your garage door locked, especially at night. Leaving these doors open allows for thieves to "case" your home and possessions for possible theft later when no one is looking. Anything of value left in the front yard or porch can be stolen, so it is smart to place these items in a secure location. We frequently see persons on bicycles during the late night hours that appear to be scanning peoples' homes for things to steal. Not all nighttime bicyclists are thieves, but enough of them are to justify a higher level of vigilance on your part.

For traffic hazards, the most important step you can take is to adjust your speed to reflect hours of darkness, rain and fog. Make sure your car has good windshield wipers, that the tires have sufficient tread, and that it is in overall good mechanical condition. You always have to keep in mind that any number of other motorists may be drunk or drugged. Another concern is that many motorists are paying attention to things such as their cell phones and other distractions, so it is imperative that you drive defensively at all times.

Finally, do not forget to notify the police when you observe crimes, suspicious activity, drunk drivers, or other activity that appears to pose a threat to public peace and safety. The number of law enforcement personnel is limited, and our ability to achieve and maintain safe communities is highly dependent on the public taking an active role in working directly with us. I look forward to the safest possible winter season for you all.