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Avoid holiday theft

Dec. 5, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University public safety reminds everyone to be safe this holiday season and to take precautions with personal property before leaving Kalamazoo over the long winter break.

December has become a prime time for theft because it's widely known that many people are away from home for an extended time. Additionally, in all the hustle and bustle, many people become careless and put themselves in vulnerable situations around this time of year. Kalamazoo public safety officers report an increased number of break-ins and thefts during the holidays, many of which they say could have been prevented.

"Leaving doors and windows unlocked or leaving items of value in plain sight is an invitation for theft," says WMU Deputy Police Chief Blaine Kalafut, who offers several tips to keep yourself and your property safe this holiday season.

Personal safety tips

  • Don't carry large amounts of cash with you. If you must carry cash, keep it in your front pocket--not in your purse or wallet.
  • Be extra careful when carrying a purse--it is a prime target in crowded shopping areas. If you must carry one, make sure it has a strap that can go over the shoulder and be held under the arm, making it more difficult for someone to grab.
  • Keep a record of your credit card numbers and contacts in a safe place at home. Notify the issuer immediately if your card is lost, stolen or misused.
  • Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and free range of motion to keep yourself safe.
  • Have your keys in your hand when walking out to your vehicle--you leave yourself and your packages vulnerable when you set things down to dig for them.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you. Especially during this time of year, thieves may try various methods to distract you with the intention of taking your money or personal belongings.
  • Follow your instinct--It's better to be safe than sorry. If you think you're being followed, call 911.

Home safety tips

  • Secure sliding doors and windows by placing a bar or rod in the track.
  • Close and lock doors and windows, even when you are home.
  • Do not leave valuables where they can be easily seen from windows.
  • Make sure your holiday gifts are not visible through the windows and doors of your home.
  • Light the inside of your home to give the impression that the home is occupied, or put your lights on an automatic timer.
  • Never say you are away from home on your answering machine or voicemail's outgoing message.
  • Temporarily discontinue mail and newspaper services when you are out of town for an extended period, or ask a trusted neighbor or family member to gather it for you.
  • Have a trusted neighbor or family member check on your place while you are away.
  • Take laptops, iPods and other valuables with you when you leave for the holidays.
  • Use a security marker pen or engraver to mark your belongings. Compile a list of serial numbers for your property and keep the list in a safe place.
  • Call 911 immediately if you see suspicious people or activity in your neighborhood.

Vehicle safety tips

  • Always park in a well-lit, high-traffic area.
  • Roll up the windows and lock the doors when leaving your vehicle. Take the keys with you.
  • Never leave your car running while unattended.
  • Never leave personal identification documents, credit cards or checks in your vehicle, even if they are concealed from view.
  • Never leave property in plain sight in an unattended vehicle, even if the vehicle is locked. Put your shopping bags in your trunk or drop packages off at home after a shopping spree. Don't try to cover items on your seats with a blanket.
  • When transporting large items, secure them to your vehicle. Don't let items hang loosely out of your trunk.
  • Call 911 immediately if you think a car has been broken into or if you see suspicious activity in a parking lot.

Media contact: Tonya Durlach, (269) 387-8400, tonya.durlach@wmich.edu

WMU News
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Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400