by Terry Rogers
Although the holidays should be a time of good cheer, statistics indicate that not everyone has the best interest of others in mind during this time of the year. Research indicates that predatory crimes, such as burglaries and other types of robberies increase by 18 percent during the holiday season. However, there are things you can do to prevent becoming a victim during the holiday season.
“Leaving your car unlocked increases your chances of becoming a victim,” Chief Kenneth Brown of the Milford Police Department said. “You also don’t want to leave valuables in your car and park in well-lit areas while shopping. Be aware of your surroundings as you travel to and from your vehicle. If you must leave shopping bags in your car while you are going in and out of stores, cover them or lock them in your trunk. Try not to carry large amounts of cash while shopping as well.”
“Porch pirates” are a growing crime trend. In this type of crime, thieves steal packages from your porch after they are delivered by the post office, UPS or FedEx. One way to protect yourself from this type of theft is to have all packages sent with a signature required. If packages are usually delivered when there is no one home to accept them, you can request that the post office hold your packages rather than leave them unattended at the door. Internet enabled doorbells and outdoor surveillance cameras may also deter someone from stealing packages from your doorstep.
After you have opened your gifts, there are other things you need to do in order to protect yourself from crime. Chief Brown recommends breaking down boxes that clearly state what was packaged inside them. Thieves will often travel around neighborhoods to see where boxes of big screen televisions, gaming systems or other expensive gifts may have been opened Christmas morning. They then return when no one is home to burglarize the property. You can protect yourself by breaking the boxes up and throwing them into a trash can over several trash cycles. Doing so over several trash cycles protects you should a thief go so far as to open your trash cans.
“This is also a time when neighbors can help each other by reporting any activity they feel is suspicious,” Chief Brown said. “If you see cars driving by slowly, looking at yours or your neighbor’s home, contact the police and we will try to have extra patrols in the area.” The same is true if you see something suspicious in a parking lot or while shopping. If someone seems to be following you or another person, speak to an employee in the business or report the activity to the local police. Milford Police Department increases patrols in shopping areas during the holiday season which makes it easier to contact an officer if there is a problem.
Identity theft is also a problem during the holidays with more people using debit and credit cards for their holiday purchases. When shopping online, be sure that the checkout page is secure by looking at the website address. It should begin with https:// which indicates the site encrypts data sent between the store and your bank. Try not to shop online using public wifi networks as hackers are able to intercept data and gain access to financial information. Check your bank account often during the holidays to catch any unauthorized transactions.