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Police: Take precautions against holiday crime

November 24, 2010

BRIAN HAWKINS
sdneditor@bellsouth.net

With today marking the start of the Christmas shopping season, Starkville Police Department detectives are warning residents to take precautions against property crime in the wake of recent vehicular and residential burglaries.
“We’ve seen a few reports, but not too many,” said Sgt. Chadd Garnett earlier this week. “The holiday season is when we typically see a spike in this type of crime.”
The vehicular break-ins have occurred in both commercial and residential areas, Garnett said.
In most of the cases, valuables — including electronics and jewelry — have been left in plain sight inside cars and SUVs, Garnett said.
“These are crimes of opportunity, and if people leave items where they are easily seen in their cars, they are potentially setting themselves up for it to be stolen,” Garnett said.
“Most of the time, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind, and there’s a reduced threat of theft or break-in. People need to take valuables out of their cars and lock the doors.
“If you can take it with you, do it,” Garnett added.
As the Christmas shoppers hit stores looking for bargains, they especially need to make sure they lock their cars, park in well-lit areas and use caution in areas where there is both heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Residents should also take precautions against house and apartment break-ins, police say. Mississippi State students, in particular, need to take precautions if they are out of town for several weeks during the winter break between the fall and spring semesters, police say.
Police officials say homeowners and rental property residents can do their part to protect themselves by following a few simple tips, including:
• Stopping delivery of both their newspaper and mail if they are out of town for the holidays. Unchecked mail and an accumulation of newspapers in yards is a sign for potential burglars that no one’s home.
• Leaving lights on both indoors and outdoors when not at home. Increased visibility around the home decreases the likelihood criminals will attempt to break in. Detectives recommended that homeowners set many lights on timers to come on during the evening hours.
• Having neighbors they trust watch their homes and property while they are away. Neighbors will be more likely to spot something out of place or suspicious, detectives said.
The Police Department also offers a home check service for vacationing residents in which patrol officers will regularly check homes to make sure they are secured.
• Keeping valuables and Christmas gifts out of the potential view of burglars from outdoors. Police recommend that residents close curtains and blinds to keep valuables out of the direct view of criminals.
• Not hesitating to call police or other law enforcement agencies to report any unusual or suspicious activity around their homes or those of their neighbors.
• Making a list of serial numbers of valuables such as electronics, appliances, jewelry and firearms as a precaution. Such a list should be stored in a safe place, and, in case of a property crime, can aid police in recovering items.
“Often, people are looking for items they can quickly resell. We regularly deal with area pawn shops to make sure stolen items aren’t being sold to them,” Garnett said. “If people can provide us with the serial numbers of their valuables, it makes our job significantly easier.”
The Starkville Police Department can be reached at 323-4134, the MSU Police Department can be reached at 325-2121 and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 323-2421. In an emergency, both agencies can be reached by dialing 911.

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