Shopping season begins today as people scramble for deals, get serious about buying gifts and purchase holiday decorations, but it is also the time of year when automobile break-ins and identity thefts occur.
Both Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jared Akins and Statesboro Police Deputy Chief Rob Bryan offer tips on keeping safe and avoiding being a victim as Christmas approaches.
“The Statesboro Police Department is encouraging all citizens to be vigilant in crime prevention and crime awareness during the holiday season,” Bryan said. “Statesboro often experiences an increase in thefts from entering autos during this time of year. Officers will be increasing patrol in high volume shopping areas in Statesboro in an effort to deter criminal activity and reduce the number of incidents.”
Akins reminds shoppers to park in a well-lighted area and hide valuables or lock them in the trunk while visiting local stores. Leaving valued items such as firearms at home while shopping is also advisable, he said. Seeing things of value in plain sight can be a temptation for someone to break into your car, he said.
“Keeping valuables, such as purses, bags, wallets, phones, and electronics out of view is another way citizens can reduce the chances they will be a target of a crime,” Bryan said. “All valuables should be secured out of sight or removed from the vehicle. Wrapped packages in vehicles should be treated as valuables, as criminals will often assume the packages contain high value items.”
And please, lock your vehicle doors.
“Citizens can help by following simple steps that can make them less of a target for crime,” Bryan said. “One of the most simple and underutilized steps a citizen can take is to lock vehicles while they are unoccupied. This doesn’t deter all criminals but it does prevent those looking to commit crimes of opportunity when finding an unlocked vehicle in a parking lot.”
A large number of entering autos are “non-forced”, which means that the means of entry into the vehicle was not secured at the time of the crime, he said.
Akins agreed. “A lot of people forget to lock their cars,” he said. “The majority of entering autos is of unlocked cars.”
Be aware of your surroundings. It is all too easy to walk to your car while planning what to buy the next go round, but a distracted shopper is a vulnerable target.
“Be aware in parking lots for people who are entering autos, pick pockets or robbers,” Akins said. If possible, when shopping at night, park in a well-lighted area.” Shopping with others is also a good idea, he said.
“Being aware of your surroundings is strongly encouraged. Look for any suspicious behavior. Persons looking in vehicle windows or checking vehicle door handles should be reported to law enforcement immediately,” Bryan said.
Keep your credit cards safe as well, Akins suggested. Avid keying in passwords or personal identification numbers (PIN) where others may see them, and be vigilant of charges if shopping online.
“Do not divulge personally identifying information or financial information,” Bryn said. “Report suspicious activity.”
And while elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers eager to get the Black Friday specials, “Maintain decorum,” Akins said. “Tempers flare. Be patient.”
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.