’Tis the holiday season, and Christmas is rushing across the calendar like a runaway freight train. It is a time when families and cherished friends gather around the hearth to drink in all the good cheer. It’s a time of peace on Earth and good will toward men. And yet, Christmas has a sinister side — one we often exile to the extreme depths of our consciousness. I’m referring, of course, to home break-ins, thefts and frauds.
The officers and staff of the Midway Police Department have, through education and increased awareness, reduced the number of these crimes in Midway. A key element of their success lies in informing the public of simple actions that reduce their visibility, vulnerability and appeal to criminals. I would like to share them with you in the fervent hope Christmas will continue to be a merry season for all of us.
Keep doors locked, identify everyone before opening the door and never let a child answer the door alone. When away from home, make sure your doors are locked and your alarm system is activated. Shockingly, in most break-ins of alarmed homes, the alarm was not set. If you are out for the evening, leave lights on in rooms you normally would occupy and leave a TV or radio on. If you are leaving home for several days, ask the Midway police to do a “location check” by filling out and returning a request form. They will monitor your home while you’re away. Remember to stop your mail and newspaper delivery or have a neighbor collect them.
Most of us will receive packages from distant family members and friends. If you are not going to be home, arrange with a neighbor to receive them for you. Leave directions for UPS, FedEx or other companies to deliver them to an alternate address.
Never set your empty boxes outside in plain view, especially boxes that once contained high-value gifts like TVs, computers and video-game systems. Criminals drive through our streets looking for those empty telltale boxes. They mark your home for a return visit after the holidays, when you are back at work. Cut up your boxes and put them in your poly-cart or drop them off at a recycling center.
Never leave high-value items — such as bikes, scooters, mopeds, toy electric carts and other expensive toys — outside unattended. They are easy to steal and, more importantly, they identify your home as a lucrative target. Don’t leave wrapped presents in your car parked outside.
If you are going out to dinner and shopping, have your meal first. If shopping at multiple locations, try to shop for smaller items first and then the larger ones. Smaller ones are less visible and easier to conceal in your car trunk.
Carry only one credit card with you, and make sure it’s the one with the lowest credit limit. Minimize debit-card use. If compromised or lost, the impact will be minimal. Debit cards are linked to your checking account, which can be drained. Credit-card charges, however, can be disputed. At restaurants, pay at the cash register whenever possible. Your card can be copied if it leaves your sight. Whenever it leaves your sight, visually check that it’s yours when returned. Never give your card to a cashier on a cellphone. They can take a picture of your card as they talk.
These are just a few of the many actions you can take to protect yourself, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. I realize this is an unsettling subject for this most joyous of seasons. But in these times, it’s an unfortunate necessity.
From our family to yours, we send our most heartfelt season’s greetings and best wishes for a happy New Year.