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Shoppers urged to take holiday precautions

As the Christmas holiday gets closer, residents begin gettingwrapped up in the holiday spirit, allowing them to be vulnerable tocrimes such as theft and burglary.

Local authorities are urging residents and shoppers to usecaution during the holiday season, which is usually accompanied byan increase in house burglaries, purse snathcings and other typesof thefts.

“People need to be more aware during the holidays,” saidBrookhaven Assistant Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson. “Thereare people out there who prey on innocent people during this timeof the year.”

Authorities say practicing a few safety measures could protectshoppers and homeowners from Christmas grinches.

Shoppers should be extremely careful about where they placevaluables after they are purchased. Packages should be placed in anenclosed area, such as the trunk, rather than in the backseat of avehicle, said authorities.

“If the trunk gets full, they should take their packages home,then come back and finish their shopping,” said Henderson.

Caution should also be used while shopping in local storesbecause crooks can be found lurking around the aisles for easytargets, Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte pointed out.

“When people are out shopping, they shouldn’t leave their pursesunattended in grocery carts,” he added.

Many women try to avoid purse snatchings while shopping byleaving their purse in a vehicle. Henderson said that is a goodpreventive measure to use, but purses should be in the trunk, notin area where they can be seen by people passing by thevehicle.

Women should also not make the mistake of waiting until they getto their destination before putting their purse in the trunk.

“If you know you’re not going to take your purse with you, putit in the trunk before you leave home,” said Henderson.

Shoppers should also be careful in parking lots, especially atnight. Authorities suggest that shoppers have their keys readybefore leaving the store, so they can get into their vehiclequickly.

Some tips for residents include locking doors and windows aswell as leaving at least one light on while away from home.

The holidays tend to be a time when families gather, which caninvolve travel and an extended time away from home. Residentsshould protect their homes from burglary before going out oftown.

“People should leave a radio or TV on because it gives theimpression that somebody’s at home,” said Boyte.

Authorities added that residents should definitely let someone,especially any neighbors, know about their plans. They can alsonotify authorities about how long they will be gone and how manyvehicles will be left at home.

County residents should call the sheriff’s department at833-5231, while city residents can call the police department at833-2424.

“We can put their house under 24-hour watch until they return,”said Henderson.

Some of the obvious signs crooks look for when targeting housesfor burglary, include newspapers and mail piling up. Residents canprotect their homes by having deliveries temporarily stopped whilethey are away from home.

Residents should also keep a record on the serial numbers ofvaluables, such as televisions, VCRs, stereos and guns.

“The serial numbers allow us to return stolen items back to therightful owners,” said Boyte.

Authorities hope these precautions will help bring cheer tolocal shoppers and residents. They also plan on doing their part toprevent crimes during the holiday season.

“We will beef up our patrol in business and residential areasduring this time of the year to help prevent these type of thingsfrom happening,” said Henderson. “We want everyone to have a happyChristmas.”