Law enforcement officers know ‘tis the season to be stealing as holiday packages and gifts can fall prey to thieves.
“During this time... we have a spike in crime,” Bibb County sheriff’s Lt. Raymond Reynolds said.
Reynolds, the commander of District 3 in north Macon, is a certified crime prevention specialist who wants the public armed with safety tips to ward off criminals scavenging for easy money.
Shoppers need to be aware of their surroundings at all times and keep purses, packages and bags in the trunk or out of sight of those looking in car windows.
Daylight outings are recommended but if you have to shop at night, don’t go alone and make sure you park in a well-lighted area.
Dress casually. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carrying large amounts of cash. Keep money secure in your front pocket.
If you have to carry a purse or wallet, be careful not to set them down or lose hold of them or some of your shopping bags.
“The main thing to remember is to be aware and alert,” Milledgeville Police Administrative Services Commander Maj. Reenae Gray stated in a news release. “Shoppers are so busy thinking about all the things that need to get done, they fail to be aware of their surroundings. It can also make people careless when they are out and about.”
Don’t forget to secure your house while you’re away or even while you’re raking leaves or working in the yard.
An opportunistic thief can strike quickly while your back is turned.
“Criminals view this time of the year as an opportunity to break into homes for cash, credit cards and gifts,” said Maj. Mike Hudson, Criminal Investigations Commander of the Milledgeville Police Department.
If you leave town, call on a trusted neighbor to watch your property.
“Houses that appear to be unoccupied are prime targets for burglars,” Hudson stated in the release. “Don’t leave outdoor lights burning 24 hours a day and talk to friends, family or your neighbors to see if they would be willing to collect your mail.”
Put lights on timers and keep a radio or television going to make it appear someone is home.
Avoid piling empty television boxes or other gift packaging and leaving them for extended periods at the curbside for trash pickup.
Reynolds encourages everyone to break apart their boxes and keep them out of sight.
People also need to use caution while they’re on the road.
Keep doors locked and windows up. Never leave your car unattended while the motor is running or with young children inside.
Make sure no one is following you home from the bank or grocery store, Hudson said.
“If you feel you are being followed while driving home, go to a public place instead of leading the robber to your front door,” he said.
Those being followed on foot also need to head to the closest safe place to seek help.
Cyber criminals and scam artists don’t take a holiday, either.
“Be wary of strangers who approach you for money,” Hudson said. “Look out for phone scams, fake charities and people posing as representatives from legitimate charities.”
Do your research and don’t give out personal or financial information over the phone or risk having your identity stolen.
Periodically check financial card statements for fraudulent purchases.
Bibb County is stepping up patrols through early January, Reynolds said.
He has a warning for those trying to take advantage of others.
“If they’re going to commit crimes here, they’re just going to have to miss Christmas because we’re going to lock them up.”