Police offer holiday crime prevention tips - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Police offer holiday crime prevention tips

MADISON, AL (WAFF) -

Christmas should be a time for giving, but cops say thieves will steal and take from distracted holiday shoppers this time of year.

Police warn the public year-in and year-out that potential robbers will target not only individuals, but their homes too.

Lieutenant Damian Williams with the Madison Police Department said people don't have to be victims during Christmas-time.

"We call it target-hardening. You know you just want to make it more difficult for you to be a target," Williams said.

Williams leads "Refuse to be a Victim," a bi-annual seminar sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

The program teaches a list of crime prevention strategies – from self-defense to home security.

"Most criminals are opportunistic. They're looking for that opportunity. They're looking for you to drop your guard, to be distracted by something else, and a lot of times they're just laying in wait for somebody to make a mistake," Williams said.

A comparison of crimes ranging from car break-ins to theft of property indicates a steady increase in these offenses during the holiday season in recent years.

Crime statistics show the number of reported car break-ins in Madison rose from 17 cases in 2010 to 51 cases in 2012 during the days between Nov. 1 and Dec. 12.

Theft of property cases jumped from 42 cases in that same period in 2010 to 78 cases in 2012.

Williams said such crimes could be prevented by eliminating the window of opportunity for such crimes to happen.

On top of remaining vigilant, Williams advises holiday shoppers to carry bags on one arm and keep the other free to defend themselves if necessary.

He recommends those carrying a purse to put the straps across the body if possible to prevent easy purse-snatching. Car keys should be on-hand as shoppers approach their vehicle so they're ready to go.

Police also remind drivers to never place shopping bags and purses in plain sight inside a vehicle, calling it a potential "showcase" for thieves. They say to always put personal items in the trunk.

Home break-ins are another concern among law enforcement during the holiday season.

Williams said those twinkling lights on the Christmas tree are beacons of opportunity for thieves. Crooks may be tempted to peruse through homes and peek through their windows to see what's under the tree.

"Someone could break in and steal everything under the Christmas tree and it would just be a horrible way to end the holidays," Williams said.

He advises displaying the tree with a limited view inside homes or at least wait to put any gifts under the tree until the last minute.

Madison Police hosts the "Refuse to be a Victim" program twice a year. The next seminar is scheduled in the spring.

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