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By BRIAN HAWKINS
With just a few days remaining until Christmas, authorities are warning residents to take extra precautions against property crime, especially if they are leaving town for the holidays.
The warning comes in the wake of Mississippi State studentsâ€™ departure following the end of fall semester classes and after various vehicular burglary reports around the city the last few weeks.
â€śThe holiday season is when we typically see a spike in property crime,â€ť said Starkville Police Department Sgt. Chadd Garnett on Friday.
The vehicular break-ins have occurred in both commercial and residential areas, Garnett said. In most of the cases, valuables â€” including electronics, wallets and other items â€” have been left in plain sight inside cars and SUVs, most of which have been left unlocked. Garnett said.
â€śThese 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,â€ť Garnett said. â€śMost of the time, if itâ€™s out of sight, itâ€™s out of mind, and thereâ€™s a reduced threat of theft or break-in. People need to take valuables out of their cars and lock the doors.
â€śBurglars donâ€™t want to have to make noise by breaking a window since it draws attention to them,â€ť Garnett added.
Simple precautions against house and apartment break-ins can help residents protect themselves, Garnett said, including:
â€˘ 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 oneâ€™s home.
â€˘ 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.
â€˘ 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.
â€˘ Making sure all doors are locked, particularly those with deadbolt locks. The same applies to windows.
â€śTake time to check and make sure windows are closed and locked. Again, burglars donâ€™t want to have to make noise, so an unlocked window is an easy way to get into a home,â€ť Garnett said.
â€˘ 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.
â€˘ 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.
â€˘ 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.
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.
The Starkville Police Department can be reached at 323-4131 and the Oktibbeha County Sheriffâ€™s Department can be reached at 323-2421. In an emergency, both agencies can be reached by dialing 911.