Police share tips for safe holiday shopping

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 14, 2019

Including Saturday, there are 12 days until Christmas.

For those expecting packages or planning a shopping trip, local law enforcement officers have tips for how to keep individuals and their gifts safe.

“No. 1 is locking your cars,” Troup County Sgt. Stewart Smith said.  “And when you have packages in the car, secure them in the trunk. If you’re unable to do that, at least put them in the back and maybe cover them. But ideally keep them out of sight.”

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For packages at home, Smith recommends getting a notification on a phone of when the package will be delivered.

“Get a neighbor to pick them up or stop that delivery service until you return,” Smith said.

If shopping online, Smith says to use a secure site, monitor credit reports and get bank notifications so suspicious activity can be found.

Lanett Police Chief Johnny Wood warns shoppers to carry their valuables sensibly.

“Don’t keep cash [visibly] in your wallet. Keep it in an inside pocket,” Wood said. “When you take out your wallet for a credit card, don’t set it down.  And only take with you the cards you will need. Leave any others at home.”

When shopping, Wood advises keeping that shoppers keep receipts with them, while valuables are in the trunk.  If the receipt is in the bag and the bag is stolen, the thieves can use the receipt with the items to get money back.

“Always have a cell phone with you,” Wood said. “If you see anything suspicious or uncomfortable call and let us check it out. When you see something, say something. If you go ahead and call, you might prevent something. That’s what we’re here for.”

Wood also suggested staying in well-lit areas and avoid parking next to big vans or campers. And he advises it is better to shop it pairs than alone.

“If you’re traveling, make your home look lived in.  Have a neighbor collect your mail and have timers on your lights,” Wood said.

Lt. Roderick Brock of LaFayette Police Department warns to keep packages from sitting on a porch or a mailbox overnight.

“You can get it shipped to the store in some cases, or to your work address,” Brock said.  “When delivered to your home, have it where you have to get a signature rather than leave it unattended.  In your neighborhood, keep an eye out for any suspicious vehicle or person.  Just call the police.  It’s no problem for us to check it out.” 

If shopping, its best to monitor parking spaces and try to find a space  as close to the store as possible. It’s also best to walk in pairs to vehicles, Brock said.

Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon said he has seen only a few cases where people actually break windows out to steal things.

“When they see a purse or a laptop, they will take a chance and bust a window out, but usually they are looking for unlocked cars,” Weldon said.

At home, video can be a good security element, according to Weldon.

“We’ve got a current theft case of a generator stolen, where cameras captured the suspect on video,” Weldon said. “It helps us identify folks. It can come in handy.”

West Point Captain Kevin Carter said to make sure home alarm systems are armed.

“There’s nothing worse than having a break-in and you didn’t set the thing,” Carter said.  “Also make sure your exterior lights are working.”

After Christmas, he said it’s best to keep gifts a secret, possible, he said.

“Don’t put the box to your 65 in TV on the street for pickup,” Carter said.  “Keep it in the house until you can take it to the garbage dump. You don’t want your neighbor to know about your new Playstation 9, so they can come break in your window with your alarm not on.”

During holiday travel, Carter urges drivers to get plenty of sleep.

“Tired drivers are as bad as drunk drivers,” he said. “I’ve seen it time and time again.”