With the holidays rapidly approaching, our thoughts turn to decorating, shopping, giving and receiving gifts, spending quality time with family and friends, as well being thankful for what we have. It truly is a wonderful time of the year! Unfortunately, though, there are others whose thoughts are preoccupied with seeking opportunities to take advantage of homeowners and shoppers who are easy crime victim targets. As the spending and gift giving increase this time of year, so does crime. It is reported that theft, burglary and property crimes increase as much as 30% during the holiday season. Being a crime victim can put a huge damper on the holidays. However, those who follow just a few key crime prevention tips will considerably reduce the risk of being another holiday season crime victim. Below are a few general tips to keep yourself and your property safe during and after the holiday season.
The happy homeowner, with the decorated house, needs to consider the following during the holiday season:
- Lock your doors when you leave home, even if it is for a couple of minutes.
- Do not leave the spare key under the flower pot. The “bad guys” will find it.
- When leaving home for an extended period, have a neighbor watch your house and pick up the newspapers and mail.
- Or contact the post office and newspaper to suspend having them delivered until your return.
- Use automatic timers to turn indoor and outdoor lights on and off for it gives the appearance someone is home.
- Leave a radio or television on so the house looks and sounds occupied.
- Never place holiday gifts in view of your windows or doors.
- Do not advertise holiday gifts you received by placing empty boxes on the street on trash day.
- Break the boxes down or haul them to the dump yourself.
The happy mall shopper, slightly stressed, has made those last-minute purchases and is absent-mindedly walking to their parked car and is not aware of others who might be watching and/or following him/her. The happy shopper should consider the following tips:
- Always park in well-lit areas.
- Never overload yourself with packages for you make yourself an easy target for a “bad guy” to grab them from you and flee.
- Be aware of your surroundings while walking through the parking lot to get to your car.
- Place all purchased items in the trunk of your car. Too many “bad guys” see bags in the vehicle and conduct a “smash and grab” act. It only takes a few seconds.
The happy online shopper, taking advantage of all those great deals, needs to consider the following tips:
- Shop with companies you know and trust.
- Be aware of the “Porch Pirate,” the person driving or walking through the neighborhood who is looking for the opportunity to steal delivered packages left on your front porch. There has been a huge increase in this type of theft.
- Track deliveries online. You can sign up for email notifications.
- Be home when packages are delivered or have a friend hold them until your return.
The happy donator is always looking for the ideal opportunity to give to those in need. However, there are those “bad guys” seeking opportunities to take advantage of those with big hearts. Be sure to:
- Donate to a recognized charitable organization.
- Ask for the identification of the individual soliciting donations “door to door”; inquire about the company they represent and ask how the donations are to be used. If not comfortable, then do not donate.
- If appropriate, report this to the local police.
The happy and responsible homeowner will find this to be the ideal time of year to update or even create their home inventory of valuable items. Should your home be burglarized, having a detailed inventory can help identify stolen items and make the filing of insurance claims much easier. This can be done by:
- Taking photos of all items, including make, model, and serial numbers.
- Inscribing driver’s license number or other personal identification number on the valuables. Do not use your social security number.
If these crime prevention tips are properly executed, then you have significantly lowered the risk of being another holiday crime statistic. Taking account of these tips will allow you to become less vulnerable and help prevent potential crimes in your future. You will be able to maximize the holiday spirit and spend quality time with family, friends, and neighbors enjoying the season. These days, many people are concerned about the threat of rising crime in their communities. Fortunately, there are ways to help protect your home and your neighborhood from crime. Share your crime prevention tips with your neighbors and friends, help one other stay safe.
By Pete Hughes
Pete recently retired from NCIS after a 34-year law enforcement career. He joined First Coast Security, an armed and unarmed security service provider to residential communities and commercial buildings in the National Capital Region.