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Keep family, money safe over holidays
George Stagmeier HPD chief
HPD Chief George Stagmeier - photo by Courier file photo
The excitement and hustle of the holiday season can frazzle even the most conscientious person, which makes ensuring one’s personal safety even more important.
Hinesville Crime Prevention Officer John Williams talks about crime prevention and safety with neighborhood watch groups and other organizations throughout the year.
“The first thing I teach people is how not to become a victim, and then what they can do to help the police identify [suspects],” Williams said. “They are the extra eyes and ears of the police department.”
He and Hinesville Police Chief George Stagmeier recommend taking extra steps to protect one’s person and property during the holidays, when certain types of crime are more likely to happen.
The most frequently occuring crimes, Williams said, are “shoplifting, entering vehicles, burglaries and strong-arm robberies.” To help prevent and minimize the damage from these types of crimes, he suggests taking one or more of the following precautions.
• When shopping, don’t leave gifts or valuables in plain view in a vehicle. Place gifts and other items in a locked trunk
• Women should only carry as much money as they need to shop, and should leave bulky purses at home.
• Navigation devices and other removable electronics in vehicles should be stowed away.
• Shop during busy or daylight hours, or request a security guard to escort you to your vehicle.
• If shopping with a credit card, keep the card, your driver’s license and one other form of ID in your front pocket.
Holiday travel is another opportunity to apply safety precautions to avoid becoming a victim, Williams said.
“If you’re going out of town, call the police department and have your house placed on the house watch list,” he said. “Even if it’s just for the day, you can call and have it placed on the list for that day.”
Additionally, travelers should pack light when it comes to money and identification. Williams recommends leaving Social Security cards stashed in a safe location at home, taking only the minimum amount of money needed for the trip and getting a prepaid debit card from your bank when you travel. “This way, if it gets stolen, it’s not tied to your bank account,” Williams said.
Road trips should also start with a full tank of gas, whether it’s to the store or out of town.
Back at home, Williams and Stagmeier say residents can take a number of measures to prevent crimes against themselves and in their neighborhoods.
When walkers or bicyclers are out and about, Stagmeier recommends they stick to familiar surroundings. “Make some effort to put yourself in a good situation so if something were to happen, you know you can knock on a neighbor’s door,” he said.
Residents can keep crime at bay by being aware of their own surroundings and reporting suspicious activity to the police. “If they suspect a crime is being committed, the first thing I tell people to do is to call 9-1-1,” Williams said. “The next thing is to stay calm and make a mental note of what’s going on.”
Stagmeier said if someone is caught in a situation where a crime might occur, such as a robbery, often the best action is to give the assailant what they’re asking for.
“Sometimes there’s an opportunity to resist or flee, but what we see with most robberies is they just take it and flee, and everyone’s okay, That seems to be the better way,” he said. “You just have to think things through.”
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