WINNSBORO — Have last minute holiday shopping to do? The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office reminds residents to not let the bustle of the season make them become a robbery statistic.
Parking in well-lit areas, carrying one’s keys in one’s hand as one leaves the store and not talking on the cell phone while walking with gifts are some simple steps people can take to reduce the likelihood of them being a crime victim.
“We encourage shoppers to make smaller shopping trips,” said D.J. Wilson with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department. “If they carry large boxes and buggies full of items that can be distracting and make someone a target.”
He advised people keep a low profile with gifts and valuables and make sure any gifts and pocketbooks left in one’s vehicle are locked up out of sight. The same advice hold true for GPS equipment, iPods and other valuables.
But maybe Christmas shopping does not mean going to mall. Instead online shopping can deliver gifts right to one’s door. That convenience, however, can be convenient to thieves as well.
Wilson said some will go through neighborhoods and steal items off of porches or in yards. He advised people either, arrange to have an item shipped to them at work or have someone on hand at home to accept the gift when it arrives. Site-to-store pickup is an option, too.
Once gifts are opened, those boxes still hold a danger for residents. Officers caution to not sit boxes on the side of the street for trash pickup to come. Potential criminals could case neighborhoods based upon people’s trash and return later to rob homes of flat screen televisions, computers and other big ticket items.
Removing shipping labels from the boxes also is a safeguard against theft, according to Wilson.
“If order online, remove mailing labels that say where the item was shipped. Recently a recycling center (in the county) was broken into. It is possible thieves were looking for metal to sell but they also could have been looking through cardboard boxes to see which items had arrived at which addresses,” he said.
Wilson reminded people to avoid mailing cash with Christmas cards and he said if someone sends a gift in a Christmas card it is a good idea to call the recipient four to five days later to make sure it arrived. Gift cards are popular but he said they also are risky because they make a certain profile in the envelope, so a thief could steal those.
Wilson said residents could take other steps to safeguard belongings such as taking photos and documenting those photos with serial numbers. That particularly is useful for electronics, fire arms and musical instruments.
Wilson also advised people keep their receipts, which can help with warranty claims. Engraving items and photographing them once they are engraved also is a good habit, he said. For more information, stop by the sheriff office and ask for a handbook about cataloging valuables and protecting oneself from fraud and theft.
Another tip to help guard one’s home against holiday theft is for one to take one’s key fob with a panic button to one’s bedside table. That way if someone tries to break in while a resident is sleeping he or she can cause a diversion, and hopefully, scare off a potential criminal.
Facebook and social media security also plays a role in home security.
“Facebook post about an event after the event has taken place, not during the event (which tells people you are not at home),” Wilson said.
And with holiday events comes the need for designated drivers, both for Christmas parties and for New Year’s Eve.
Wilson said deputies will be more vigilant in neighborhoods and along mail routes this holiday season.
“I am a big advocate for prevention and the public being aware of their surroundings. We want everybody to have a safe holiday. If they see suspicious activity, please report it. It’s our job in investigate. If something does not feel right, it likely isn’t right,” he said.