How to avoid becoming a victim of crime during the final holiday shopping push

Crooks target people rushing to prepare for holiday

DETROIT – Many people are running to parties and getting their last-minute shopping done before the holidays, and the last thing they might be thinking about is safety.

Thieves try to cash in on people who are busy preparing for and enjoying the holidays, experts said. The Local 4 Defenders have you covered with last-minute advice to keep you from becoming a victim.

April Quasarano and Jennifer Chambers, both of Canton Township, said they’re close friends and always protect each other.

“When it comes to safety, we’re always looking out for ways we can help each other,” Quasarano said. “If one of us goes out of town, getting each other’s mail, parking a car in the driveway, making the house look like it’s being lived in at that time.”

Canton police said that’s an especially good idea during the holidays.

“Leave lights on in the home,” Canton police Officer Patty Esselink said. “Leave the television on so that there’s some noise in the house, so that it gives the illusion that maybe somebody is home.”

That applies whether you’re just going to church, out for the evening or away on vacation.

“Always let your neighbors that are around you know that you’re going to be gone for a couple days so that they can keep an extra eye on the home,” Esselink said.

Police advise staying off social media. Everyone loves to share vacation photos, but it’s smart to wait until you come home.

“Post those images and those events that you’re looking forward to after you get home so that if anybody is searching social media that you do not give them the heads up that you’re not going to be around,” Esselink said.

Keep your garage door closed, even when you’re home, officials said. Having it open so people can see your snowblower, bikes or power tools, makes you a crime of opportunity, experts said. Thieves will grab goods to sell for quick cash, according to authorities.

Another mistake can happen right at the curb. Don’t let thieves know what’s new to your home by putting a television or Mac book box out with the trash. Break down boxes and use dark garbage bags, not clear ones, to hide the packaging from gifts, officials said.

“They do pay attention to that if they’re driving by and they see a new television box out by the road,” Esselink said. “That may give them a little inclination that, ‘Hey, there’s something in that house that I might want.’”

Cameras around the home are a great way to deter thieves, but Canton police want people to remember that some people only have it for the live feed, and that doesn’t help if there’s a crime and you need to look back later.

“Always make sure that they are recording,” Esselink said. “Make sure that you have the batteries charged and that they’re working, and don’t use that as a way of deterring everything because people still commit crimes, even though there’s cameras.”

Set your outside lights to go on early to protect yourself and your neighborhood, experts said.

“As it gets darker, there are still deliveries that are being done out there,” Esselink said. “So make sure we keep our porch lights on, our garage lights on, so that illuminates the neighborhood a little bit better, especially if you don’t have any streetlights in our neighborhood.”

Police said people leaving vehicles unlocked in driveways is still a big problem. They also leave valuables in plain sight, while is an easy crime of opportunity around the holidays. Bring laptops, shopping bags and anything else of value inside, police said.

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