It’s no surprise that during the holiday season, most law enforcement agencies see an increase in all types of theft, not only vehicle break-ins and home burglaries. During the weeks leading up to the holidays, many victims report additional crimes such as packages being stolen from their front door, mailbox break-ins and even a surge in identity thefts.
While you are out spending your hard-earned money buying holiday gifts for family and friends, criminals are out doing the same thing... they simply prefer to skip the “buying” part, allowing you to do that for them before taking your family’s would-be gifts for themselves.
Prevention of Package Thefts
This is a year-round problem but for obvious reasons it’s much worse during the holiday season. Often referred to as ‘Porch Pirates,’ these criminals often follow package delivery trucks such as UPS and FedEx as they drop off packages, picking them up for themselves shortly after the delivery driver leaves. Others simply drive neighborhoods looking for the delivered packages sitting on doorsteps before walking right up to steal them (often in broad daylight!). Suggestions to prevent the theft of your packages include:
• Have packages delivered to your workplace or office.
• Use Smart Package Lockers such as “Amazon Locker” available at many convenience stores.
• Track your shipments online so you know the arrival date and time.
• Install Security Cameras or a video doorbell system to deter criminal activity.
• Request the shipper to require a signature for delivery, if available. • Ask a neighbor to watch for the delivered items and to hold them until you return home.
Shopping at the Mall or Other Large Stores
Some criminals roam popular stores and parking lots in search of easy targets. One of the easiest crime opportunities you can inadvertently create is leaving anything of value in plain sight in your parked vehicle. Not only will your items be stolen, you will also have the cost of replacing your car’s now-smashed window.
• Always lock your vehicle and hide valuable items from sight.
• Hide your items prior to your arrival so would-be thieves do not see you hiding the valuables before leaving the vehicle.
• Do not make multiple trips to fill up your car with gifts or items. If you plan to continue shopping, consider leaving the parking spot and moving the vehicle to a completely different area. Criminals watch for people loading up their car with property and then return back inside for another round of shopping.
• Always carry your driver’s license for Identification and only the credit card you expect to use. Should your wallet or purse be stolen, making one or two calls to notify the bank and/or credit card company is a lot easier than doing so for every card you own. Additionally having others available allows you to continue shopping and going on with your life until the stolen cards are replaced.
• Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. This is the time of the year when criminals use any method to distract you to take your property.
• Shop with friends or family members to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. If shopping with children, teach them what to do and have a plan for where to go if they get lost.
• Park your vehicle in a well-lit area if shopping at night. If you’re using valet parking, leave only the ignition key with the attendant and not your full keychain, especially if it has a key to your home. Remember to remove or secure your registration, insurance and any other paperwork that may have personal information.
Avoiding Holiday Scams
Charitable donation scams occur all year but are especially prevalent during the holiday season. Avoid individuals or organizations that want to prey on your generosity as an opportunity to steal your cash through deception. Help prevent your donation from going into the pockets of criminals by taking the following precautions:
• Determine the organization’s validity by doing some research prior to making the donation.
• Watch out for charities using similar names to well-known organizations.
• Avoid on-the-spot donations or high-pressure tactics. You can always donate later after you have vetted the organization!
After the Holidays
Watch your credit card bills following the holiday season to ensure that all the transactions are accurate, look out for any suspicious purchases, including small ones!
Don’t place the large empty television box or other large gift boxes at the curb for trash pick-up. Break down all boxes and make them fit into your trash can. Leaving empty boxes at the curb just advertises that your home has some new items of interest to a potential criminal, increasing your chances of being burglarized in the future.
- John Catalano, Senior Lead Officer
About Officer Catalano
As a veteran law enforcement officer who specialized in crime reduction for 23 years, John Catalano provides insight and value to the community to help prevent property crime, violent crime and help improve the many quality of life concerns in our neighborhood today.
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