SAVANNAH, GA (November 24, 2014): The traditional holiday shopping season begins this week and Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police are taking steps to help keep shoppers safe.
The annual “Jingle Bell Patrol” already has begun in most precincts with all of them becoming fully involved by the end of the week. Officers will be working overtime in high traffic areas to address the annual escalation in crime brought on by the holidays.
Officers also offer these tips for the holiday season:
• Limit the amount of cash you carry. Try to use debit or credit cards when possible and be sure to care for them as you would cash. Keep your account numbers and customer service telephone numbers for each card in a handy place away from your purse or wallet so you can call to cancel the card should it be misplaced or stolen.
• Keep your cell phone in a pocket rather than your purse. If the purse disappears, you will be able to call for help.
• Shop with someone else: The more the better.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Shopping is an exciting time and thieves can prey on those who are not paying attention.
• Park in a well-lighted area.
• Always store all valuables out of sight. Thieves don’t mind breaking your $1,200 window to get a handful of coins. Put all items in the trunk or in areas where they won’t be seen by passers-by.
• Lock your car. Jerking on door handles is easy and once they open, thieves will rummage through the car to see what’s there. At the same time, make sure windows are up.
• Take all keys. If thieves find a spare key, the vehicle probably will be taken.
• In the haste to get bargains, avoid quickly throwing packages in the back seat and running back into the store.
• Consider making your most expensive purchases last so you can head straight home with them.
• Have your keys ready when you approach your car. (Your keys can be used as a defensive weapon if necessary.)
• Look around the car to assure that no one is lurking around or in the car before entering.
• Consolidate smaller purchases into one or two large shopping bags. Never leave purchases unattended.
• Women should hold purses close to their body with the opening facing them. When walking with someone else, keep the purse between you.
• Avoid purses hanging from straps around your neck. A purse snatcher can harm you with it. If someone grabs the purse, let it go. Nothing in it out values your safety.
• Keep your mobile phone in a pocket rather than the purse.
• Never leave your purse in the shopping cart or on a chair of a restaurant, even if you are close by.
• Men should consider keeping their wallets in their front pocket rather than hip pockets or jackets.
• If you are taking children to an area where they might become separated from you, take a photo of them with your cell phone. That way, if they do become separated, you will have a photo of them dressed as they are.
* Shopping carts are top-heavy. Make sure children are in the seats and not riding in the basket itself. • Remove your child’s coat or sweater once indoors. Overheated children can become difficult and distracting. • Keep all children with you at all times, not allowing them to wander on their own. (They can move quickly.) • If possible, try to shop with another adult to help watch your children. • Point out security guards or store offices so your children know where to go if they do become separated. • When waiting in line, give your children a book or snack to keep them occupied so you can concentrate on what you are doing and keeping everyone safe.
HOME SAFETY Your home is enticing to would-be thieves and the lights of the tree remind them that goodies probably are available under them.
• If you have a burglar alarm, use it, even if you only intend to be away for a few moments.
• If your house will be vacant, consider turning off the tree lights. (This also serves as a fire safety reminder.)
• Remember, after Christmas those fancy boxes stacked in your trash area or yards are billboards to thieves who now know what items are in the house. Even tearing them to pieces and depositing them in your home recycling bins isn’t enough. Thieves are smart enough to look in them. Consider taking them away from your home to get rid of them or store them someplace out of sight for a week or two before discarding.
• Particularly for woman living alone, consider backing into your garage. This allows you to see if anyone has walked in behind you before you exit the automobile.
• Resist the urge to leave a vehicle running to warm up while unattended. It will warm up more quickly while being driven and many auto thefts occur when vehicles are left unattended with keys in them.
AUTOMATIC TELLER MACHINES
• Try to withdraw money only in daylight hours when people are around.
• Limit afterhours ATM use to those in well-lighted, public areas.
• Look at the ATM to assure that no extraneous equipment has been attached that may scan your card. These theft devices have been found in the area.
• Try to take someone with you.
• Look around and make sure no one is loitering nearby or looks or acts suspiciously. If they do, walk away quickly. If they arrive after you have begun your transaction, cancel it and return later.
• Have your card in hand, conduct your transaction and walk away quickly. You can count the money later in a safe place.
• Never leave your receipt in the machine.
HOLIDAY TRAVEL This is a favorite time to travel to renew family traditions and old friendships. Keep in mind your greatest investments could be left vulnerable at home.
• Ask one or more neighbors to keep an eye on your house, alerting them on who might be there legitimately. If your area has a neighborhood watch, by all means, request its help. Make sure they know how to contact you.
• Make sure your alarm is working and is set. • Call the Crime Prevention Officer in your precinct and alert officers on patrol that you will be away so they can pay extra attention to your house. Make sure they know how to contact you.
Crime Prevention Officers
West Chatham Precinct: APO. Bryan Harrell (912) 652-6560
Downtown Precinct: Ofc. Samantha Stephens (912) 651-6990
Central Precinct: APO. Barry Lewis (912) 651-6931
Southside Precinct: Cpl. John Simmons (912) 351-3400
Islands Precinct: Ofc. Ryan Thomas (912) 898-3252
• Awareness is your best protection. Be alert to what is going on around you at all times and use common sense.
• Call 911 immediately if you see anything suspicious. Do it! You could be preventing immediate and future crimes.
• If you are a victim of a crime, try to remain as calm as possible, remembering every detail you can. Look for something obvious about the suspect, then assess their height in comparison to yours, hair color, facial hair, scars, eye glasses, direction of travel and method of travel. (Automobile description, color, make, tag if possible.) Also, note clothing colors and styles, especially shoes, since shirts can be changed easily.
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