Police warn of increased holiday crimes

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Along with twinkling lights, brightly lit houses and shopping rushes, the holiday season also brings some less-desirable trends to some of Shelby County’s most populated areas.

“Things have been kind of quiet for us the last few weeks, but with the economy the way it is, people are starting to get desperate,” said Pelham Police Department Lt. Davy Lott.

Every Christmas season, the Pelham Police Department sees a spike in burglaries, shoplifting and other theft cases.

With more shoppers lining store aisles, collections of valuable goods under Christmas trees and families out of town for long periods of time, criminals have more opportunities to commit crimes during December, Lott said.

“With more people shopping later at night, it’s more of an opportunity for criminals to steal things,” Lott said. “Ladies have their purses with them when they shop, and they get busy doing something and leave their purse in their cart. Someone will pick up their purse before they realize it’s gone.

“We have had some burglaries in the past, both before Christmas when everything is under the tree, and after Christmas when everything has been opened up,” Lott added. “We get a lot of shoplifting calls too.”

The Police Department has released a list of safety precautions to follow while shopping and at home.

While shopping, the department warned residents to be alert of their surroundings and always park in well-lit areas, to never shop alone and to never leave valuables visible in a parked car.

“If you do shop alone, especially at night, be especially cautious when returning to your vehicle. Have your keys out and ready when you leave the store,” read a Pelham Police press release, which also noted burglaries from automobiles are among the most common holiday crimes.

The department also warned shoppers to only make purchases from secure websites, and to always keep purses and wallets in their possession while at a store.

“Some online businesses are merely fronts that utilize personal and credit card information for illegal purposes,” the release read.

While at home, the department urged residents to immediately report suspicious vehicles or people in their neighborhood to the police, to avoid allowing strangers access to their homes, to keep gifts in an area not visible from outside the house and to keep all doors and windows locked.

“Pay special attention that the packaging material for large-dollar items, such as electronics, is placed out of view in trash receptacles for garbage pickup,” read the release. “If traveling, leave some lights on and contact the Police Department to request extra patrols for your home.

“Hopefully these tips, along with some diligence on the part of you and your family, will help to protect you from crime during this special time of the year,” the release read.