Protect yourself from crime this holiday season

I was taught from an early age that locks were made for honest people, not those that intend to steal. The advice goes, if people used locks, there would be no thievery. That does have some credence to it, but we must be much more vigilant about our surroundings and how much time criminals will actually put into stealing. I’d like to offer some tips to possibly prevent you from becoming a victim of a theft-related crime.

uLast week, retailers hit record sales across the board. Use caution when disposing of the packaging of your purchases. Do not put television boxes, computer boxes or any other clue that there are nice things inside your house on the street for the garbage collector to pick up. Break the boxes down to fit in a garbage bag to prevent them from easily being seen. Criminals actually “patrol” the streets the night before garbage day to see who has nice stuff inside to burglarize later.

uWe have key criminal leaders that employ unemployed college-aged kids to simply walk around neighborhoods at night and pull on car handle doors to see if they are unlocked. If they are, they are easy picking for stereos, GPS monitors, laptops, golf clubs, weapons, etc. If you park your car in the driveway or on the street, lock your doors.

uNever leave your purse unattended in your shopping cart. Not only will a criminal steal any valuables you have in your purse, but there is a black market for credit cards. If you must carry a purse, keep it zipped up and do not stop to count money for any passerby to see. Consider only shopping with a debit card and your identification in your front pocket.

uIf you are going out of town for the holidays, have a neighbor get your newspaper and your mail. A stack of newspapers in your driveway tells the criminal that you are out of town. If you stop your mail, the postal service will often put a tag or a string on your mailbox to alert carriers not to stop at that mailbox, which also alerts a criminal you are out of town.

uOnly give to charities you have dealt with before and consider sending a check, not your credit card information over the Internet.

uIf something or someone in your neighborhood doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Call your local law enforcement immediately upon noticing anything suspicious and attempt to relay to them as much information as you can, including car tag numbers and physical descriptions.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.