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Festive crime warning

don't leave presents on view in the car
Don't leave presents on view in the car

Police are reminding people to take extra care over the festive holiday period to ensure that it's not spoilt by criminals.

According to police, it's a prime time for thieves, who may be watching shoppers from when they purchase gifts to when they put presents around the tree.

PC Louise Luxford, a local Police Community Support Officer with the Safer Neighbourhood Team, says there are some simple steps people can take to avoid being victims of crime.

Out shopping

  • Keep hold of your wallet or purse. If you have too many bags you will be too busy trying to hold on to these to be aware of anyone stealing from you. Have your purse or wallet close to your body and don't carry too much cash.
  • If you travel by car, make sure you park in a well-lit area, lock all doors and windows and do not leave presents in view. Try not to return to your car to leave purchases in the boot before continuing with your shopping trip, as thieves may well watch car parks for just such a chance.
  • Arrange to collect heavy items from stores when you have finished all your shopping.
  • Keep your chequebook and cheque card separately.

At home

  • Having bought your presents, don't make it easy for someone to steal from your home. Keep them out of sight until last thing on Christmas Eve and, if you 'hide' or store larger items such as bicycles in the shed or outbuildings, make sure they are secure.
  • Check your insurance to make sure you are covered for the value of goods in your home.
  • Take the frame numbers of new cycles and the serial numbers of new electrical equipment for future reference.
  • Remember, empty boxes left outside your home advertise that you may have new goods inside - dispose of all packing carefully.

Going out in the evening

  • Make it look as though someone is at home, by turning on lights and the radio.
  • Don't leave curtains open so that people can see your decorations because this means potential thieves can also see in.
  • Be extra careful about locking doors and windows.
  • As a fire precaution, don't leave Christmas lights on in the house while you are out.

If you go away for the holiday period

  • Use an automatic timer for lights, and ask a trusted neighbour to watch your home.
  • Don't forget to cancel newspapers and milk if you have them delivered, and either redirect your mail through the Post Office or have your neighbour take mail into the house; unopened Christmas cards and mail are a sure sign that a house is empty.

Strangers at the door

  • Genuine delivery personnel usually have uniforms and liveried vehicles and should not need to come into your home.
  • Charity collectors will have identification and will not be offended if you ask to see it. If you are not sure, but want to make a donation, ask whether these can be made in other ways, perhaps through a bank.

Out on the town

  • Don't leave bags over the back of your chair and keep wallets and purses close to your body to make it more difficult for the pickpocket. Busy places make it easier for the sneak thief, so be alert at all times.
  • Make prior arrangements as to how you will get home.
  • Avoid any potential disturbances on the street.
  • Stay with friends if you can.
  • Avoid the temptation to take a minicab on the street, even if you are having difficulty getting a cab - it is illegal for minicabs to take passengers who have not pre-booked.
  • Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be back.
  • Don't drink too much - you could become a target for thieves.

Most important of all, have a happy festive holiday.

You can discuss crime in a thread in this site's forum.

13 December 2008

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