This is the time of year many people are out shopping for the holidays, attending parties or visiting relatives out of town. It is also the season for burglaries, entering auto cases and other thefts, police say.
A few commonsense habits can help keep the holidays happy and the Grinch at bay. Practicing safe shopping, concealing evidence of purchases and securing cars and homes can go a long way in deterring theft or mischief, said Bulloch County sheriff’s Capt. Todd Hutchens.
The first word of advice he has is “lock your doors” — that means car doors, house doors, storage shed doors. Having dependable, quality locks and actually making sure to use them is a major precaution against burglaries and other thefts, he said.
Statesboro police Community Information Specialist Madison Warren agreed.
“Lock your doors, lock your doors, lock your doors,” she repeated. In many, if not most, entering auto cases, the victims’ vehicle doors are not secured.
She also suggested hiding anything of value left in your car. If you don’t have a trunk in which you can lock recent purchases or valuables, “bring a sheet or a blanket to cover items,” she said.
If you can avoid it, don’t shop alone.
“Get a store employee to help carry large or numerous packages, and only unlock the one door you need to access while loading items into your vehicle.
“Be aware of your surroundings, and don’t be distracted,” she added. “Walk with purpose, and don’t be on your phone.” Would-be thieves and assailants often prey upon victims walking alone in dark places who seem preoccupied, she said.
At home, safety measures can help discourage burglars, Hutchens said. Aside from making sure doors are secured, “don’t leave mail or papers in boxes,” and avoid other indicators that a home may be unoccupied. Put away valuables where they cannot easily be seen, and have the Sheriff’s Office or neighbors keep watch on your property, he said. “Leaving outside lights on and a radio or TV playing” inside may help as well.
If you order things online for delivery to your home, make sure someone is there to receive the packages.
“Break down boxes, and don’t leave empty boxes out on the curb so people can see what you have bought,” Warren said.
Another bad habit people often do is leave their car running while they make quick trips, Hutchens said.
“Don’t leave the car running while you run into the Time Saver to get a drink. Shut the car off and lock the door,” he said. “And don’t be driving while you are on your cellphone.” In spite of the recent law prohibiting use of electronics while driving, many people still do it, he said.
Both he and Warren remind people to increase awareness and report things that don’t seem safe.
“If you see something strange or out of the ordinary, call us,” Hutchens said.
For house checks and to report suspicious activity in the Statesboro city limits, call the Statesboro Police Department at (912) 764-9911.
For suspicious incidents or house checks in the rural county areas, call the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office at (912) 764-8888.