Officer Larry Hesselgesser of the San Diego Police Department has provided the following holiday safety tips compiled from several law enforcement agencies across our nation.
The holiday season is always a special time of year. It is also a time when busy people become careless and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. We can never be too careful, too prepared or too aware. Please share this information with family, friends and neighbors.
• If you think you are being followed, call 911 and give updated locations and descriptions until a police car pulls behind the person following you. Or drive into a well lit, well populated area for safety.
• Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device when parked.
• If you must shop at night, park in a well-lit/populated area.
• Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with occupants inside.
• Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked.
• Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside.
• Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
• Keeping your keys in your hands as you walk to your car could be used as a defensive weapon.
• When approaching or leaving your vehicle, look around and be aware of your surroundings.
• Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.
• Ask mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location.
*Using pepper spray in self defense is ok, keep a small can in your hand ready, if you are alone.
Automated Teller Machine (ATM)
• Protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you. Make sure there is not a card reader over the real ATM card slot.
• Use only well lit, populated ATM locations or avoid at night.
• Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with someone.
• Avoid wearing expensive flashy jewelry.
• Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
• Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
• Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost/stolen.
• Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home and check statements often for fraudulent use. The sooner you catch it the better.
• Be extra careful if you do carry a wallet or purse. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit.
• Avoid overloading yourself with packages and do not leave purses or wallets open or dangling from your shopping carts. If you feel like you are being distracted you're being targeted for an easy theft.
• Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, "con-artists" may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of scamming or taking your money or belongings. Make eye contact with a suspicious person who may be casing you, then act like you are on the phone. Practice taking pictures or video, acting like you are on the phone.
* Listen to your 6th sense, if something doesn't feel right, get out of the situation.
• If possible, leave small children at home with a trusted babysitter.
• Teach your child to go to a store clerk and ask for help in case your child is separated from you.
• Teach children to stay close to you at all times while shopping.
• Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom.
• Children should never be allowed to go to the car alone and they should never be left alone in the car.
• Make a child ID card with the help of an online source, laminate it and put it in your child's pocket.
• Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes. Use post it notes by the door to remind you.
• When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail.
• Indoor and outdoor lights should be on an automatic timer. Use brighter LED lighting with sensors. Solar LEDs are great for the side of your house.
• Most importantly, lock your side gates with a combination lock.
• Leave a radio or television on so the house looks and sounds occupied.
• Large displays of holiday gifts should NOT be visible through the windows and doors of your home.
• Be sure your Christmas tree is mounted on a sturdy base so children, elderly persons or family pets cannot pull it over on themselves.
• If you use lights on your Christmas tree ensure the wiring is not damaged or frayed. Frayed or damaged wiring can cause a fire.
• Check the water level of your Christmas tree often so it does not dry out.
• Never place wrapping paper in your fireplace.
The goal of Operation Identification is to deter property-related crime and to assist the Police Department in their efforts to find and return stolen or lost property to its rightful owner. Remember the following:
• Mark property with your California Driver License or Identification Card number.
• Do not use your Social Security Number.
• Items that cannot be marked with an engraver, photograph or videotape them.
Strangers at Your Door
• Be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts.
• It is not uncommon for criminals to take advantage of the generosity of people during the holiday season by soliciting donations door-to-door for charitable causes although no charity is really involved.
• Ask for their identification, and find out how the donated funds will be used. If you are not satisfied, do not donate, donate to a recognized charitable organization.
• Copy a "No Soliciting" sign off the internet, laminate it and post it by your doorbell. This small deterrent works most of the time.
• If you do not wish to answer the door yell through the door, "not interested!" so they know someone is home. They may try to break in if they believe you are not home.
• Security Screen Doors offer an extra layer of protection and can be quite ornate.
Hosting a Party
• Have non-alcoholic beverages available for party guests.
• Find alternative transportation for intoxicated guests, like Uber, Lyft (both have apps) or a taxi.
• Arrange for an official designated driver for your party who will not drink at all.
Attending a Party
• Have something to eat before consuming alcoholic beverages.
• Eat high protein foods that will stay in your stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol into your system.
• Remember only time and food will help eliminate the alcohol from your body.
• Know your safe limit.
• Never drink and drive, DUI checkpoints are used more often during the holidays.
Most of these tips we don't even want to think about but they could save your life. The criminals are looking for the easiest victims to target. Remember an ounce of prevention, really does go a long way especially around the holidays. Do your part to avoid being victimized. The most important thing is staying safe and enjoying peaceful holidays with family or friends.