With the Christmas holiday season just around the corner folks should be especially aware of thieves lurking nearby, looking for an unsuspecting target. Local law enforcement agencies caution residents to secure their cars and homes and take notice of suspicious individuals now and all year-round.
Liberty County Deputy Lt. Danny Pittman, who heads up the sheriff department’s neighborhood watch program, suggests people park their vehicles in well-lighted areas and place packages and purses in the trunks of their cars and trucks.
Hinesville Police Det. Doug Snider agreed, adding expensive items such as GPS tracking devices and cell phones also be removed from plain view and secured out of sight. Snider said thieves often “walk up and down rows of cars” outside malls and shopping centers, “testing” for unlocked doors and looking for valuables left inside vehicles.
“Be observant of your surroundings. Look around and see who’s there,” Snider said. “People who take things from other people, they perceive their intended victims as not paying attention.”
When shopping, women should also not leave their purses unattended in shopping carts, Pittman and Snider said.
Pittman said to prove how easy it would be for a thief to steal from a store buggy, he once took his wife’s unattended purse from her shopping cart “when she wasn’t looking.” “I kept it for about 10 minutes before giving it back to her,” the deputy said. He said his wife was mad at him “for a day” but it was worth her learning to be more careful.
Snider suggests shoppers carry cell phones. If they see an individual behaving suspiciously or in a way “that makes them uncomfortable,” they can call 911.
“If they’re honest, law-abiding citizens then there’s no harm done. But if they’re criminals, police can possibly deter crime or recover property,” he said.
Pittman also tells women not to be embarrassed to ask store security to walk them to their cars at night, such as when they park in large mall parking lots. “That’s what they’re there for,” he said.
Snider said shoppers should behave discreetly and know who they’re dealing with when they hunt for bargains.
“Avoid carrying large amounts of cash,” Snider said. “And don’t buy goods off the street — those items are generally stolen.”
To avoid home burglaries, the HPD detective recommends homeowners lock their doors and keep valuables like big screen TVs and computers out of sight. In other words, draw the blinds and the drapes so a burglar can’t see into your home through a lighted window or door, he explained.
Snider said burglars are also tempted when they see empty boxes that once contained “big ticket” items placed on the street for trash pickup. Thieves are looking for evidence of gaming systems, computers, big screen TVs and hunting rifles in the days following Christmas, he said.
Snider added residents, particularly seniors, should be aware of scams committed over the telephone and over social networking sites.
“Don’t respond to people (making unrealistic promises). Hang up the phone, and ignore them on networking sites like Facebook. If it’s too good to be true, it’s usually isn’t true.”
Scammers are proficient at preying on people who are struggling financially, he said.