Police offer safety tips to prevent holiday crimes

Published 9:07 am Monday, December 14, 2015

While the holidays are a time of cheer they are also a time to take extra precautions.
“With the approaching holiday season, it is common for certain types of crimes to increase,” Elizabethton Police Department Capt. Joy Shoun said. “During this time, we also understand that individuals have very busy schedules and are commonly pre-occupied with other matters.”
During the holidays, while people are out shopping more often, carrying more money than usual and keeping more expensive items in their homes, crimes such as car and home burglaries and purse snatchings can increase. For those reasons, Shoun said the Police Department wants to remind citizens of some basic preventative measures that could help lessen the chance they will become victims of crime.
The first advice Shoun offered is to make sure you never leave personal belongings such as a purse or wallet unattended.
“Even while shopping, do not walk away from your shopping cart and leave these personal items unattended,” she said. “Thefts can occur very quickly, and due to crowded stores this time of year, suspects can leave the area very quickly, often times undetected.”
“This also includes the period of time when shoppers are loading and unloading merchandise from a shopping cart in a vehicle,” Shoun added. “Also, be sure to take inventory of personal belongings, such as a purse or coat, to ensure that they are not left behind.”
Shoppers should also make sure they are aware of the surroundings and people around them as they are entering and exiting stores, Shoun said. This helps prevent a chance for a criminal to isolate someone as a target of a crime as well as helping to detect and prevent other potential criminal activity, she added.
Perhaps the easiest advice for protection is for residents to make sure they lock their doors, Shoun said.
“Many investigations involving vehicle burglaries and stolen vehicles determined that the vehicles were left unsecured and in the cases of auto theft, a key had been left inside the vehicle,” she said. “It is also important not to leave valuable items inside vehicles in plain view. Criminals look for easy targets and they will look for such things.”
“This does not guarantee that such crimes will not occur, but it definitely is the easiest form of prevention,” Shoun added.
Telephone scams requesting personal information and credit card information are also popular during this time of year, Shoun said.
“As a general practice, government agencies and local utilities do not contact individuals by phone and request payment or personal identifying information over the phone,” she said. “If there are concerns, request a contact number in which the call can be returned after verifying the information which is being provided. Use sound judgement and be cautious before falling victim to such scams.”
The Police Department also asks residents to report any suspicious activities or individuals to the proper authorities.
“Our officers are aware of these concerns and trends and will be taking the necessary efforts to target these specific types of crimes,” Shoun said. “As always, with the help of the citizens and involvement by the community, we increase our ability to be effective in this effort. Have a safe and happy holiday season!”

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