Preventing Crime During the Holiday Season
Don’t let the hectic pace of the season keep you from using good judgment and common sense. Not doing so can expose you, your vehicle and maybe even your home to the impulses of a thief. Protecting yourself, your family and your belongings doesn’t have to be difficult, inconvenient or expensive. Sometimes all that is needed is a reminder.
The Vernon Hills Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit has the following simple suggestions to help improve your security, both at home and away, during the holiday season:
WHEN PARKING –
- Try to park in well-lit areas.
- Always close the windows and lock your car, even if you will be back in “just a minute.” This applies everywhere – including in front of your own home!
- Hide small valuables in the glove compartment or under the seat (iPods, GPS units, laptops and purses are just what a thief wants to see in easy reach). Lock larger items in the trunk or cover them up. Regardless of what may be in them, shopping bags are a giveaway to a thief and even the smallest items are a temptation. In other words, do not make your vehicle an attractive target.
WHEN SHOPPING –
- Try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
- If you carry a purse, keep it close to your body, in front of you where you can see it, and cover the clasp or flap with your hand or forearm. Never carry open-weave bags or purses without flaps or zippers. Those are easy marks for pickpockets. Never leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart or put it down somewhere, even for a moment while you look at something on a store shelf - that’s all the time it takes for a thief to grab your wallet. Think a little before you hang it on the back of a chair in a restaurant.
- Men should carry their wallets in an inside coat pocket or side pants pocket, not in the rear pants pocket.
- Never overburden yourself with packages. Being loaded down may make it difficult for you to keep track of your purse or wallet or to respond to a situation. It may take a little more time, but the best thing is to make an extra trip to your vehicle’s trunk.
- If you are shopping with children, hold their hand as much as possible. Tell them if they get separated from you, they should go to a security guard or store clerk and say they are lost. Make sure they understand to never go into the parking lot to look for you or your car.
PROTECTING YOUR IDENTITY –
According to Reuters, over $108 billion was spent online during the 2017 holiday season. That’s a lot of opportunities for criminals to steal your information and why you should remember the following:
- Know who you are dealing with and try to deal only with reputable companies online
- Website has a physical address that YOU typed in (not one you clicked on in an email you received) and phone numbers you can call.
- Pay by credit card. It makes it easier to dispute charges and usually limits liability.
- Don't email any financial information or your Social Security number.
- Shop at sites with secure ordering and posted privacy policies. (Look for websites that begin with “https” and not just “http”.)
- For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at ftc.gov.
PROTECTING YOUR HOME –
- Take an extra minute to make sure that the doors and windows are locked before going out. Once again, do this even if you will be gone for only a short time.
- Leave lights and/or a radio on so that it looks like someone is home. The installation of inexpensive timers can assist with this.
- If you are going out of town, there are several things that you should do before you leave. First of all, make sure to install at least one of the aforementioned light timers. Also, ask a relative or friend to watch your home and, if they haven’t been stopped, to bring in the mail and newspapers promptly. Ask them to move the curtains periodically to make your home look “lived in.” Make arrangements to have the snow shoveled (a snow-covered driveway and sidewalk is an obvious sign that no one is home).
- While it may be a popular and seemingly harmless thing to do, it's never a good idea to post anything on social media that leads people to believe that your home is unoccupied.
- Finally, remember that most police departments offer a free vacation watch in which your home will be checked periodically while you are away. Call your police department and ask if this service is available. Vernon Hills residents can do it on-line at vhpd.com.