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Use precaution to deter Christmas crooks

‘Tis the season for porch pirates and other opportunistic thieves as people celebrate the Christmas spirit with online purchases and in-person shopping. However, with a few easy steps, you can reduce your risk of being a victim of theft or burglary.

Atop the naughty list are thieves who pick packages off of porches. It’s even been noted that some criminals will follow a delivery truck and snatch items soon after the carrier drops them off.

“The easiest way to avoid (package theft) is having items shipped to your workplace if the employer will allow it,” said Burnet Police Chief Brian Lee. “If you are unable to have the packages directed to where you will be, neighbors are the next best line of defense, either watching for the package or receiving it for you.”

Another option, Marble Falls Police Sgt. Barry Greer pointed out, is to have packages held at or shipped to a delivery service office or hub. Several carriers offer options for package delivery, including Amazon’s HUB Pick-up and UPS’ Access Point. FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service also will hold packages at a secure location or the post office. 

Homes aren’t the only places thieves are on the lookout for easy pickings. Among crowds of holiday shoppers in stores, it’s easy to get distracted and step away from your basket for a moment. In those brief seconds, a thief can snatch a purse, wallet, phone, or other valuable from a shopping cart.

“Never leave a purse unattended in a basket,” Greer said. “Also, make sure that your purse or wallet is zipped up and closed if you must bring it into the store with you, and consider keeping it on your person.”

Greer said most thefts reported to Marble Falls police are opportunistic, not forceful. 

That extends to a store’s parking lot. Always lock your vehicle’s doors, Greer urged.

“Also, place all packages in the trunk (or) hatch area and cover them up so they are not easily visible,” he said. “The vast majority of our auto burglaries are due to unlocked doors. Breaking glass attracts attention and is a rarity here.”

Parking lot safety is always important. Pick a well-lit spot and walk to your vehicle with keys in hand. Before getting inside your car, check the back seat or rear area to make sure no one is hiding in wait.

And while a Christmas tree lit up in the window of your home is a beautiful sight during the holidays, it also can be a beacon to crooks, who can easily spot presents placed around it.

“You might consider storing your presents out of sight until Christmas Eve (or) Christmas Day to minimize ‘window shopping,’” Greer said. “We certainly don’t want to dampen the holiday spirit, but there are grinches out there that would think nothing of ruining your family’s Christmas. At least consider keeping the curtains drawn when you are not home if you have your tree (and) presents in front of your window.”

Chief Lee also recommended putting home lights on a timer if you are traveling to deter thieves.

“Exterior lighting is the number one thing you can do to prevent theft, along with trimming any hedges or bushes near the house where someone could hide,” he said. 

And, he said, alert a trusted neighbor to your travels so they can keep an eye on your house. Some police departments will even do an extra patrol of a residence for people who are traveling.

Lee added a word of caution while out and about.

“Another safety tip to express is, during the holidays, it seems we all get in a hurry to get so many things done, so slow down, especially when driving, and pay attention,” he said. “This time of year, we see a lot of alcohol-related accidents due to all of the holiday parties. Be responsible if you are drinking and have a designated driver or abstain.”

daniel@thepicayune.com