Mischievous little eyes are peeping inside homes and vehicles this shopping season, looking to snatch up brand new clothes, shoes, gadgets and gizmos while the owners are oblivious to what's going on. But local law enforcement, who will be on the trail of these prowlers this week and throughout the holiday season, has ways people can keep their goods safe and prevent being victimized by burglaries.
Thieves strategize when planning a burglary, scoping out vulnerable people, watching their every move from the time they leave their vehicle unattended to the time they walk into a store to the time they return and leave their shopping bags in the car, heading off to another location. To the criminal, the person's car has now become a target to be burglarized, especially if the vehicle's doors are unlocked, windows are down and the vehicle is parked in a dark area.
But these thieves are not just on the lookout for cars left unattended with “free” goodies inside. They're ready to swipe money and merchandise right from underneath the victims' nose, often waiting for their chance to snag a woman's purse or flee with her shopping bags after she leaves a store.
Avery Cook, head of the Patrol Division for the West Point Police Department, said so many people make the mistake of pinpointing a thief as the stereotypical, scruffy looking guy wearing an old hoodie, sporting worn out jeans and busted up kicks with the soles nearly treaded completely away.
This day and time, he said, a thief can be a little old lady who needs help with her groceries, a well-groomed gentleman in a new Armani suit or a sweet, well-kept lady who “accidently” trips and falls on you in the check out line.
“Once people realize that the so-called good guys can have the same mind that a criminal has, they'll take more precautions to monitor their things and their surroundings because no one wants to be deprived of what they just bought during the holidays,” Cook said.
That's why everyone is urged to take the proper safety measures to reduce the risk of burglary.
The WPPD, the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the National Crime Prevention Council gives the following holiday shopping safety tips to prevent burglaries:
• Shop during the daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or a family member.
• If you are out of the house, don't leave gifts in an area of the house where they can be seen from outside.
• Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible. Be extra careful when carrying a purse or wallet; they are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas. Deter pickpockets and purse snatchers; carry a purse close to your body in the front. If you are carrying a wallet, place it in an inside coat or front pant pockets.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
• Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
• Notify the credit card issue immediately if your card is lost, stolen or misused.
• Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
• Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of the year, con artists may try various methods of distracting you to take your money or other belongings.
• If you plan to have packages delivered to your home, make sure you are home to accept them. If not, ask a neighbor to accept it or have the package sent to the post office.
• If out shopping, park in a well-lit area.
• Be sure to lock your car, close windows and hide shopping bags and gifts