Authorities say the easiest way to become a victim during the Christmas holiday period is by leaving valuables in plain view inside your vehicle.
“It only takes about three seconds to break a (car) window,” said Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley, adding that people need to park in well-lit areas and shop with friends whenever possible.
He said Pell City has seen an increase in car break-ins in recent weeks, and cars are being broken into at all hours of the day and night.
“We’re looking at tough economic times right now, and people are willing to take chances,” Turley said.
Turley and others said the main thing is for shoppers not to put any presents inside their vehicles in plain view.
Shoppers are also warned to be extra observant in parking lots and at malls. Authorities recommend when searching for a parking space, pay particular attention to anyone out of place or suspicious.
Police increase their patrols in the shopping district.
Authorities say thieves will shadow someone in the store, waiting for the opportune time to snatch someone’s purse when the victim’s attention is drawn elsewhere.
They also suggest that shoppers carry a waist pouch or something that they can carry closer to their bodies, other than a purse.
Turley also warns residents to be extra careful with their debt and credit cards, saying thieves can “shoulder-surf,” looking over someone’s shoulder, in an effort to get a credit card or PIN number from a potential victim.
“If you shop online, only use reputable vendors with secure transactions,” Turley added.
Turley said it’s also a good idea to check your credit card statements several times and look for anything out of the ordinary.
Area police departments will offer extra holiday patrols for residents who are on the road during the Christmas holidays.
“We do a vacation watch,” Watson said, adding that all a resident must do is come down to the police department and fill out a form.
The information on the form provides authorities a contact number in case of an emergency.
“We will go by and check their resident on each shift,” Watson said. “It gets check pretty regularly.”
Authorities say it is best to try and make your residence look like someone is actually home.
They suggest having someone move the positions of your vehicle(s), turning on lights inside and outside the home, and having someone pick up your newspaper and mail.
Turley said neighbors need to be more observant during the Christmas holidays for possible burglars or thieves combing their community neighborhoods.
“Some thieves will scout neighborhoods and look for packages near doors and garages,” Turley said. “If you can’t be home for the delivery, have a trusted neighbor or relative secure the package for you.”
He said residents should report anything out of the ordinary to police.
“By remaining vigilant and reporting any suspicious vehicles or persons to your local police, you not only can protect your community, but you may help solve numerous cases throughout the county.”