Police urge vigilance during holiday season

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Jim­my Young said shopping center parking lots during the holiday season are like an all-you-can-eat buffet for criminals.

Criminals prey on vehicles filled with packages and purses in the large, crowded lots, he said.

“Even if someone goes into one of the small stores, it’s going to take at least 30 minutes if it’s not crowded,” Young said. “It only takes the bad guys five minutes to do what they need to do.”

Many businesses try to minimize crime by hiring special-duty officers. Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Overstreet manages special-duty requests and said he begins to see those increase around Black Friday. Strip malls and banks are among the commonly requested locations for officers.

“A lot of stuff happens in the parking lots and not necessarily in the stores,” Overstreet said.

He said officers also see increases in panhandling and flim-flam schemes. Financial crimes and identity theft also increase.

Holi­day burglaries vary by year. Some years there’s a large increase and others see very little change.

“You always see a bit of a spurt,” Young said.

November and December were 2011’s second- and fourth-highest months for burglaries. January and October ranked No. 1 and No. 3.

The holiday season provides a target-rich environment for crooks: presents on display in homes, more people away on vacations and get-togethers and the end of daylight saving time.

Young said the time change means it gets dark before the end of most people’s workday, which gives crooks more opportunities to slip in and out without being seen.

Fire safety urged during holidays, cold weather
DON’T BE A VICTIM

• Keep packages and purses in the trunk while shopping. Move the items before parking so you can’t be seen making the switch.

• Double-check to ensure that all vehicle doors and windows are closed and locked.

• Avoid shopping alone or at night.

• Stay alert to surroundings.

• Have your keys in your hand before you reach your vehicle.

• Park as close to the store as possible.

• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and make purchases with a debit or credit card when possible. Keep an eye on the cards during transactions.

• Use caution if shopping online.

• Avoid displaying a tree or presents from a front window.

• Don’t draw attention to being away from home for extended periods, such as leaving outdoor lights burning 24 hours a day or having newspapers pile up.

• Don’t bring attention to high-dollar purchases by leaving boxes by the curb. Break down boxes when possible.

 

Source: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

2011 CRIME STATISTICS

Burglary - Theft from Vehicle - Shoplifting

January: 358 - 289 - 107

February: 247 - 205 - 71

March: 231 - 284 - 88

April: 270 - 305 - 89

May: 294 - 262 - 112

June: 300 - 241 - 95

July: 270 - 229 - 93

August: 298 - 230 - 102

September: 327 - 261 - 74

October: 334 -253 - 105

November: 345 - 289 - 130

December: 333 -242 - 127

 

Source: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

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