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Crime doesn't take a break over holidays

POSTED: December 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
’Tis the season when bargain hunters are out shopping in full force, and so are those looking for “steals.”
Carla Goodwin, the commercial relations officer at The Coastal Bank in Hinesville, said besides credit-card theft, people are at greater risk of identification theft during the holidays because they are caught off guard more easily.
Goodwin advised people to just be careful when shopping. Don’t get mesmerized by holiday music and, in particular, “don’t flash cash.”
“Even if you’re coming in and out of the bank,” she said. “Because you don’t know who’s around the corner.”
Sensitive information, such as credit-card account numbers, can also get in the wrong hands through loose sales receipts, so she suggested keeping them secured.
“If you dispose of them, then do it through a shredder,” she said.
Goodwin said she doesn’t sign the magnetic strip on her credit cards, referring anyone who asks to her ID card.  
“If they get your card and see your name written on the back, then they can get your signature,” she said.
Goodwin said people lose bank debit cards throughout the year, not just during the holidays, and procedure for recovery is the same.
“We tell them to call us immediately, so we can stop that card,” she said. “You don’t want to wait two or three days.”
Small towns such as Hinesville are not exempt from crime during the busy shopping season, according to local police officers, who said there is often a spike in car thefts, shoplifting and home burglaries.
“(The crime rate) probably goes up about 20 percent, with shoplifting even higher around this time of year,” said Hinesville Police Department Chief George Stagmeier. “We’ll see it through the end of the year and maybe through the first week of January, and then it seems to settle down.”
Simply keeping valuables, especially in vehicles, out of public view goes a long way in reducing the risk of theft, according to Stagmeier.
He explained that thieves look for a quick and easy steal, so consumers should try to make things more difficult for a would-be robber. The what-to-do list includes locking your car in a busy shopping center parking lot and putting valuables out of sight.
“When they check and thereís nothing there, they try another target,” Stagmeier said.
During the next few weeks, the HPD and Liberty County Sheriffís Department have officers specifically assigned to patrol local shopping centers.
After far as safety at home goes, LCSD Chief Deputy Keith Moran said people should keep their outside lights on at night to deter thieves and generally be “more aware of what’s going in their neighborhoods.”
While Stagmeier admitted it was difficult to find stolen property, he said putting serial numbers on valuables, such as stereos and cell phones, can help track them.
If you are a victim of a theft, report it to the police as soon as possible.
Goodwin said people lose bank debit cards throughout the year, not just during the holidays, and procedure for recovery is the same.
“We tell them to call us immediately, so we can stop that card,” she said. “You don't want to wait two or three days.”
Small towns such as Hinesville are not exempt from crime during the busy shopping season, according to local police officers, who said there is often a spike in car thefts, shoplifting and home burglaries.
“(The crime rate) probably goes up about 20 percent, with shoplifting even higher around this time of year,” said Hinesville Police Department Chief George Stagmeier. “We’ll see it through the end of the year and maybe through the first week of January, and then it seems to settle down.”
Simply keeping valuables, especially in vehicles, out of public view goes a long way in reducing the risk of theft, according to Stagmeier.
He explained that thieves look for a quick and easy steal, so consumers should try to make things more difficult for a would-be robber. The what-to-do list includes locking your car in a busy shopping center parking lot and putting valuables out of sight.
“When they check and there’s nothing there, they try another target,” Stagmeier said.
During the next few weeks, the HPD and Liberty County Sheriff’s Department have officers specifically assigned to patrol local shopping centers.
After far as safety at home goes, LCDS Chief Deputy Keith Moran said people should keep their outside lights on at night to deter thieves and generally be "more aware of what's going in their neighborhoods.”
While Stagmeier admitted it was difficult to find stolen property, he said putting serial numbers on valuables, such as stereos and cell phones, can help track them.
If you are a victim of a theft, report it to the police as soon as possible.
 

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