Authorities offer tips to prevent holiday grinches

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 17, 2001

The holiday spirit grows as Christmas draws nearer, but so doesthe opportunity for grinches to spoil it, authorities said.

Law enforcement officers in Lincoln County hope to save somepeople from heartache this holiday season by arming them with theknowledge of how to help prevent theft and burglary.

“People need to be more aware during the holidays,” saidBrookhaven Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson. “There are peopleout there who prey on innocent people during this time of theyear.”

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Crimes like auto thefts, house burglaries and purse snatchingshave already started becoming a little more prevalent during thelast month, said authorities, mentioning three recent unsolvedhouse burglaries.

Homeowners can best prevent the theft of treasured items bykeeping doors and windows locked, leaving at least one light onwhile away and hiding Christmas packages from view.

“People also need to help us by writing down the serial numbersfrom their TVs, computers, VCRs…,” Lincoln County Sheriff LynnBoyte commented. “That’s about the only chance of locatingsomebody’s property. We can put those on NCIC (National CrimeInformation Center) and it will show up anywhere across thecountry.”

Serial numbers and descriptions of items in the household shouldbe kept in a safe place, such as a filing cabinet or safety depositbox, Boyte added.

Residents can also prevent crime by looking for and reportingsuspicious behavior, like vehicles driving by homes slowly orstrangers lurking around.

“Burglars will sometimes knock on people’s doors to see ifthey’re home, and if they answer door, they ask them for somethinglike directions,” Lincoln County Investigator Lance Falveysaid.

He pointed out that victims are usually two-income familieswhere the husband and wife both work during the day.

Boyte suggested that residents leave a radio or television onwhile away to give the impression of someone being home.

If local residents plan to leave their home for more than oneday, they should inform neighbors, family and friends, who can keepa close watch on the residence, authorities agreed.

County residents can call the sheriff’s department at 833-5231to request extra patrol, while Brookhaven residents can the policedepartment at 833-2424.

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

Residents should also have newspaper deliveries halted, and havesomeone pick up their mail while away, since those items piling upcan be tell-tale signs for burglars.

Shoppers can also be targeted during the holidays, soauthorities warn them to be extremely careful about where theyplace valuables after they are purchased. Packages should be placedin an enclosed area, such as the trunk, rather than in the backseatof a vehicle.

“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, Boyte pointed out.

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

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.

Suspicious subjects in parking lots or stores should be reportedto law enforcement officers immediately.

“We have already picked up our patrol in business andresidential areas,” said Henderson. “We’re trying to assist thebusiness owners and citizens any way we can.”