‘Tis the season to be jolly and have a giving spirit, but unfortunately the holidays are also a prime opportunity for criminals to strike.
Whether you’re doing your shopping online or physically going out, there are plenty of chances for crime to occur. During this time of year, police departments all across Dallas-Fort Worth are taking to social media, reminding residents and shoppers to be vigilant in watching for scams, vehicle break-ins and what’s called “distraction theft.” The Dallas, Plano, Irving, Carrollton, Duncanville Police Departments and countless other law enforcement agencies in the area have been sharing tips on how not to be a victim of holiday theft and crime on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
We asked Highland Park Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Sgt. Lance Koppa his safety recommendations for the remainder of the holiday season, and we think they’re applicable to everyone in the Metroplex (and they're consistent with the holiday safety tips other police departments have publicized):
- DON’T LEAVE PACKAGES ON YOUR DOORSTEP/LEAVE YOUR HOME UNWATCHED
If you plan to travel, ask a neighbor to collect packages on your doorstep, mail from the mailbox, or newspapers from the front lawn. Also, ask the neighbor to keep an eye on your house.
Do not leave personal electronic devices in your vehicle. Also, do not leave wrapped packages in your vehicle.
Beware of "distraction theft"—women should carry handbags on their shoulders with the top fastened. While shopping, if you must place your handbag in a cart, then keep an eye on it at all times. Criminals will work in teams of 2 or 3—one suspect will ask a victim an inherently innocent question (the distraction), so the victim’s attention is turned away from their purse, while a second suspect steals the wallet/Smartphone out of their handbag. Since the purse is still sitting in the shopping cart, the victim will not realize their wallet is missing until they reach the checkout line.
Remain vigilant while walking across parking lots. Cell phone use will limit your ability to pay attention to your surroundings.
It’s important to keep a record of items that have serial numbers (Smartphones, desktops, laptops, notebook computers, firearms, TVs, etc.). If the item is ever stolen then we (law enforcement) will enter the serial number of a stolen item into a database that is searchable by other police agencies. By recording these serial numbers, you are increasing the chances we can recover the stolen items and put the bad guys behind bars.
- RESEARCH WHERE YOU'RE DONATING
This is the season of giving, and criminals willingly prey on this. Remain cautious if approached in person, email, or by phone to donate to a charity. Do not hesitate to ask for information where you may make a donation online, or by mail.
Utility providers and their approved contractors must wear or have in their possession an official work ID. Contact the utility service provider directly if you have questions about service being performed around your home, on your property, or demands for payment/threat of utility disruption based on a “past due” bill.
Keep all of your home's doors locked and arm the alarm system each time you leave.
Is your home address clearly marked, both in front of your home and in the alley/easement (if applicable)? Having a clearly-marked home address, 1) helps first responders locate you quickly, and 2) provides an easy way for a passer-by to report the correct address to dispatch if there is a police/fire/EMS emergency situation at your home.
I can’t stress this enough—report suspicious activity immediately. Your “gut feeling” is normally a good gauge to provide you the guidance when something is “out of the ordinary.”
Check out more holiday home and vehicle safety tips from your local police department's website or social media accounts.
And, whatever you do, don’t drink and drive this holiday season. Police officers will have a no-tolerance policy over the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, so be responsible and call a cab or designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.