Crime Never Takes a Holiday. That sounds like a really cheesy line, and maybe it is, but unfortunately it’s true. Sadly, we see an increase in all sorts of property crimes during the holidays. Car break-ins, burglaries, thefts, fraud, identity theft and robbery all increase this time of year. So, it’s good to have knowledge that will help you avoid being a victim.
Did you know that there are two types of criminals? There is the predator and the opportunist. The predator targets you specifically, because they know or have heard you have something they want. For example, maybe you have a rare coin collection, or some expensive jewelry that was seen by the wrong person. A predatory criminal is one who might rehearse scenarios and form a plan about how to get your property. These types of criminals don’t just stop because it’s hard to get, they just keep trying until they find a way. Even banks are susceptible to predators, because the fact is, a predator is not easily deterred. Fortunately, predators are rare, but opportunist criminals are everywhere! They don’t care who they steal from; they just want something easy. They are shopping in the store where you are. They are roaming your neighborhood while you are at work or school, stealing packages from your porch or breaking into your house. Sometimes they roam neighborhoods at night trying door handles on cars and door-knobs on homes.
Some opportunist criminals will not be looking to commit a crime but will commit one when the opportunity arises. For instance, a car that is parked on the side of the road or in the driveway running; or a garage door that is open, but no one is around tending to either situation. Maybe a purse is sitting open in a shopping cart, while the owner is facing away, or an unattended cell phone. If you give an opportunist criminal the chance to steal your property, they will take it!
So… don’t be an easy target. Here are some tips to make thieves’ “job” harder. Especially during the holidays when more thefts are taking place.
• Take only credit cards that you need. Leave the rest at home, locked away.
• Don’t leave purchases, or anything else, in your car in plain sight. Lock them in the trunk.
• Put purchases in the trunk before you arrive at your next shopping destination, so if people are in the parking lot, they don’t see you put the items in there.
• Lock your car doors. Park in well-lit areas with good visibility.
• Don’t leave your garage door opener in your car while you shop. If a thief gets into your car, they can get your address off the registration form, and they can drive to your house and open the door with your garage door remote!
• Don’t leave your vehicle registration form in your car. Carry it on your person. Make sure it is available for a law enforcement officer if you get stopped or have a collision.
• Don’t over burden yourself with packages in parking lots. Use a shopping cart and be alert to the behavior of people around you.
• Make eye-contact with people in parking lots. That shows them you are alert to their presence.
• If you see people in parking lots trying multiple door handles, call 911 and give a good description of the suspect: Include, race, gender, age, approximate height and weight, and then a description of their clothing.
• For online shopping, to protect yourself from “Porch Pirates” you can have items shipped to local stores. If you buy from Kohl’s, for example, you can have many purchases shipped to a local Kohl’s store.
• Amazon Hub. If you buy gifts on Amazon, there are 13 “Hubs” in the Spokane area where you can have those items shipped, so they are not left unattended on your porch. Search the Amazon website for a list of “hubs.”
• Don’t post pictures of yourself on vacation while you are gone. Those posts and pictures advertise that your home is empty. Wait until you return to share those fun photos with friends and family.
• Don’t leave luggage in your car overnight when you stay at a hotel or other lodging. Take it all in with you.
• Keep your cell phone charged in case of emergencies.
• Keep blankets and warm clothes in your car when you travel. Some people have lost their lives stranded in cold weather without appropriate clothing.
• Try to keep your gas tank at least half full, in case your car gets stuck during cold weather.
With your new gifts, toys, phones, electronics etc.:
• Take a picture of the item and the serial number. Email the picture to yourself.
• For some items that don’t have a serial number, you can engrave your driver’s license number on them using this format: State/License Number/DL, for example WA/SMITHJT20TJ3/DL.
• For items with no serial number and those you can’t, or don’t want to engrave, take a photo with your driver’s license or identification card next to it, and a ruler next to it to give a sense of scale. Email the photos to yourself.
These tips will help law enforcement get your property back to you, if they are ever stolen.
That’s it, folks! Enjoy your holiday season to the fullest, and by following these easy steps, you are less likely to have them spoiled by some Grinches. Keep yourselves safe, don’t forget the less fortunate people in our community, and tell the people you care about how important they are to you. I hope your holidays are wonderful, relaxing and memorable in all the best ways. If you have any questions or comments for me, you can email me at DWMorris@SpokaneSheriff.org. See you next year!
There are many more crime prevention tips to help in keeping you safe, but it really comes down to listening to that inner voice. If something doesn’t feel, look or sound right, or if you feel as if you or someone else is in danger, call 9-1-1 or Crime Check at 509-456-2233. Use caution and common sense and practice good crime prevention habits. As always you can reach me via email at DWMorris@SpokaneSheriff.org, or you can call me at 509-477-6044. I wish you a safe and joyous holiday season!