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Take steps to deter thieves this holiday

By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Ag Communications

JACKSON -- Christmas gifts have begun to fill the secret hiding places of shoppers everywhere, and unfortunately, thieves know it.

Ted Gordon, safety and risk management director for Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said shoppers should take precautions to avoid becoming victims of crime this holiday season.

“It is a fact that crime increases during the holiday season,” Gordon said. “So everyone should be even more mindful of personal safety.”

Gordon said shoppers should go with a companion and avoid shopping after dark.

“If shopping alone, don’t hesitate to ask a security guard for an escort to the vehicle,” he said. “Have the keys ready to enter the vehicle before leaving the store and once in the vehicle lock the doors and leave. Never sit in the parking lot for any reason.”

Gordon also suggested shoppers follow these tips to avoid theft:

• Dress casually, and do not wear expensive jewelry.

• Carry only the debit and credit cards needed for the day’s purchases.

• Do not carry large amounts of cash.

• Place purchases in the trunk so they cannot be seen by would-be thieves.

• Park in well-lit areas, and always lock the vehicle.

• Be observant of the surroundings.

Gordon said thieves are usually only interested in valuables.

“If approached by a thief, throw the item he wants away from the safest pathway to run,” he said. “The thief likely will pursue the item, letting the individual go.”

Colendula Green, public information officer for the City of Jackson Police Department, said the public should take proactive steps at home as well.

“Criminals know people are out shopping for the holidays,” she said. “People should begin protecting their property before they ever leave the house to go shopping.”

Lights and noise are the best and least expensive crime deterrents for a residence, Green said.

“Exterior lighting is an excellent way to protect your residence year round whether someone is at home or not,” she said. “The noise from a television or radio can make it appear that someone is at home, even during the day. Inexpensive timers for interior lamps and motion-sensing exterior lights are both good investments.

“I recommend using these techniques every day of the year, not just during the holidays,” Green said.

Be careful of social media posts.

“Social media is a part of our lives now, but people should be extremely careful about what they post to sites such as Facebook and Twitter,” Green said. “Do not post comments such as the Christmas shopping is done, that you are leaving for the day, or that you have gotten an expensive gift. Those are invitations to thieves.”

Green said other tips to help keep the home secure include:

• Keep gift displays away from windows and doors where they can be seen easily.

• Always lock all doors and windows when leaving, even if for a short time.

• Close and lock the garage. Never leave a garage door opener in a vehicle outside the garage.

• Break down product boxes so that images cannot be seen, place flattened boxes inside a garbage bin.

Suspicious activity or individuals in a store, parking lot or neighborhood should be reported to local law enforcement.

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Released: November 8, 2012
Contact: Ted Gordon, (662) 566-2201