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Adhering to holiday security awareness

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GregCapersSheriffNow that we are into the holiday season, I thought I would extend some safety and security tips to heighten your holiday security awareness. FBI statistics show that crime rates increase by an average of 30 percent during the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season.

During this season many people are out Christmas shopping. They are often distracted and carrying large amounts of cash and expensive gifts. Criminals know this and do their own shopping by taking advantage of such tempting opportunities to separate you from your cash and belongings.

Either in your place of employment or shopping, staying alert is probably the most important thing you can do to keep from becoming a victim of a holiday theft.

With only a few days left until Christmas, here are some tips for protecting you, your family, and friends.

•It may be difficult but be careful not to become distracted when managing shopping boxes and bags to include handbags as this makes you an easy target. Ensure your handbag or wallet is secure and keep cell phones out of sight. Keep your checkbook and credit cards separate and avoid carrying too much cash or leaving valuables in plain sight in your car.

•December is normally a month filled with celebrations and social events, so beware of leaving your belongings unattended.

•When out and about, make sure someone knows where you are going and when you will return.

•Although we all love showing off our Christmas trees and our colorfully decorated homes, this can also act as a beacon for thieves ready to take some of your valuable belongings, or even worse cause you physical harm. To minimize this exposure, close your blinds or partially restrict the view into areas inside your home.

•If you are planning to go out for the evening, leave some lights on.

•If you are going on vacation, put an automatic timer on your inside lights.

•If you have a home security alarm system, make using it a priority.

•Make sure all doors and windows have secondary locks and deadbolts for your doors.

•Don’t hide spare keys in your mailbox or planters or under doormats.

•Ensure all door areas and entrances points to include garage doors have outdoor lights that are turned on after dark or are activated by sensors.

•Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed so they do not conceal doors and windows. Remember, overgrown foliage can provide a hiding place for criminals.

•Consider a bank safe deposit box for coins, stamp collections, seldom-worn jewelry, stocks and bonds, etc.

•Lock your vehicle and remove all valuables, even in your driveway.

•Use extreme caution anytime there is a stranger at your door.

•Be suspicious of unexpected sales calls or deliveries. Always ask for identification, and do not under any circumstances let anyone inside your home unless you are convinced it’s safe to do so.

•Be aware of scams that criminals commit to take advantage of people’s generosity during the holidays.

•Investigate charities before making donations.

•If you are leaving for the holidays, ask a trusted friend, neighbor, or neighborhood watch member to watch your home.

•Remember to make arrangements for mail and newspaper deliveries to be suspended while you are away for an extended period.

•After the holidays don’t advertise expensive toys, electronics, or other expensive items you have received by the boxes left for garbage collection. Compress large boxes and place them in a black garbage bag for pick up.

•Avoid what hass now become very common — porch piracy. Have packages delivered to your work, if possible. Leave specific drop off instructions for the delivery person. If comfortable, leave your mobile phone number for the delivery person so you can be reached if there is an issue.

If you believe you’ve become a victim of porch piracy, check with your delivery company to make sure your package actually was delivered. Know exactly what’s in the missing box. If you see the suspect thief, pay attention to what his or her vehicle looks like and its license plate number. Get the thieves’ physical description — gender, approximate height and weight, and what they’re wearing. Then immediately call 911 and give all that information to my dispatch person who will immediately dispatch a deputy who will advise you of what action will be taken.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to make contact with the individual(s), nor should you draw attention that you are observing them.

It is my wish and the wishes of all your Sheriff’s Office personnel that you and your family have a blessed and safe holiday season.

As always, I hope you find this information informative as well as helpful. Should you suspect any illegal activity of this nature or for anything you are concerned about please contact my office’s emergency number 911 for an immediate response.

Should you need assistance of a non-emergency nature please feel free to call (936) 653-4367 and our dispatch person will route your call to the appropriate department for assistance.

Greg Capers is Sheriff of San Jacinto County.

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