December 1, 2019
By: Dwayne Page
Thefts and break-ins may increase during the holidays, since thieves often know that many families travel leaving their homes unattended or stocked with high-priced gifts.
Sheriff Patrick Ray urges you to guard against becoming a victim by following a few tips.
“We always want you to be on alert and keep an eye on your neighborhood especially this time of year because most thieves will travel about to see what cars or houses and garages are easy targets. If you should spot a strange vehicle in your neighborhood get a good description of it and a tag number and let us know. We’ll check it out,” said Sheriff Ray.
If you don’t already have one, Sheriff Ray suggests investing in a home alarm system and security cameras.
“If you have an alarm system make sure it is working properly. Its also good to have security cameras. Those serve a dual purpose. If your alarm goes off you can go back quickly and pull up an app on your phone to look in your house and see if someone is there. It also gives law enforcement something to go back and look at to see if we can identify the person or their vehicle. If you can’t afford a camera system in your home you can always get a game camera and hide them around your home but make sure they have an infrared flash on it and not a bright flash because if a thief sees that he will steal the camera. We have actually solved some cases where people have used game cameras and captured a picture of the suspect or a tag off their car so its very helpful to us to have something like that,” Sheriff Ray said.
Unoccupied houses can be potential targets for burglary, but hiding the signs of vacancy may fool thieves into thinking you’re still home. Leaving lights on, asking a neighbor to get your mail and setting automatic timers on holiday lights and decorations may give the appearance of being home. It may also be a good idea to do a home security check and consider making any necessary updates before you leave.
Keep your home safe by locking up. When leaving your home, keep in mind that thieves don’t always enter through the front door. Make sure all the doors, including back and patio doors, are locked. And finally, check your windows periodically to make sure the hardware is secure.
If a thief is able to break into your home, chances are they will be looking for guns, tools, jewelry and electronic devices. Sheriff Ray urges you to make sure you record serial numbers to your weapons, televisions, DVD players, laptops or desk computers, shop tools, etc and don’t leave money or jewelry out in the open. Mark wrenches and socket sets and other items because they are easy to steal. Keep your valuables secure.
“I just amazes me sometimes how many people don’t write their gun serial numbers down. Without the serial number it is almost impossible to solve the theft of a weapon. In time a stolen gun will probably be sold or traded to a gun dealer so make sure the serial numbers are recorded so they can be traced. Don’t leave weapons out in the open. Lock them in a secure gun safe that is bolted to the floor or a wall where someone can’t just pick it up and take it off. Some gun owners even hide their weapons and often forget where they are hidden which can cause confusion. They’ll forget where they hid them and think they are stolen. They will come to us to report a theft and then discover later the guns were hidden under a mattress or in a dresser drawer and they forgot. You need to know where your weapons are anyway in case you need them. We also give away gun locks,” Sheriff Ray continued.
Keep your walk in door to your garage shut and locked at all times. Also keep your garage doors down at all times and locked.
“Keep Christmas presents and packages, whether inside or outside your home, out of plain sight. Many people will buy presents and pile them under their Christmas tree which they place in front of a window to be seen. Remember if someone is wanting to break into your home they can go up to the window and see the tree and what is under it. If they see a lot of Christmas presents there it may entice them to break in,” said Sheriff Ray.
If you prefer to do your holiday shopping online, it might be a good idea to start customizing the delivery times and locations for your packages to help deter theft.. Most shipping carriers may allow you to have a package dropped off at your home by a back or side door instead of the front door. You can also choose to have your packages held at a carrier’s location so you can pick them up at a time convenient to your schedule
“If you are not at home when packages are delivered we encourage you to have them delivered to a neighbor or family member who is home during the day. I drove by a house last year and noticed three or four boxes piled up next to the front door. It was obvious they had something delivered there. How easy would it be for a thief to pull up there and load up those boxes and drive off?” said Sheriff Ray.
Other tips to keep in mind:
*When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail.
*Do not post on social media about being out of town.
*Park your vehicle under a street light or under some kind of lighting.
*Avoid driving alone or at night
*If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area
*Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows
*Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked
*Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside
*Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while out of your car. Make sure to set your car alarm
*Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
*Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car
*Keep secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels. Do not put them down or on top of the car in order to open the door.
*When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings
*Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area. Ask a store security officer for an escort before leaving your shopping location.
*If you must use an ATM, choose one that is located inside a mall, store, or a well-lit location. Withdraw only the amount of cash you need.
*Protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you.
*Do not throw your ATM receipt away at the ATM location
*Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member.
*Avoid wearing expensive jewelry
*Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible
*Always carry your Driver License or Identification Card along with necessary cash. Checks, and or a credit card you expect to use.
*Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings
*Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
*Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
*Keep cash in your front pocket
*Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen, or misused
*Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home
*Be extra careful if you do carry a wallet or purse. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping
*Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, “con-artists” may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking money or belongings.
*If possible, leave small children at home with a trusted babysitter
*Teach your child to go to a store clerk and ask for help in case your child is separated from you
*Teach children to stay close to you at all times while shopping
*Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom
*Children should never be allowed to go to the car alone and they should never be left alone in the car
*Teach children their full name, address and telephone number to give to law enforcement. Teach children to immediately inform you if a stranger is bothering them.