The holiday season has arrived. Most people would say this is best part of the year. Everyone seems to be more pleasant, cheerful and kinder than usual. The holidays also bring  something out in less fortunate people…desperation. Television has us believe that “criminals” or “thieves” are teenage males that have no families and no homes. And these crooks commit crimes wearing black hooded sweatshirts and sunglasses. What about someone with a family? It could even be someone who is fortunate enough to have a job during these harsh times. What if it was your neighbor?

Holidays bring out desperation in people. And parents who want to provide the proper amount of food and gifts for their families will act on this emotion. Acts of desperation could lead from shoplifting at a store to holding up a bank. And throw away any type of Dog Day Afternoon or other Hollywood notion of bank robberies you may have. Nowadays, criminals pass notes to tellers that include some type of demand and threat on them. Sometimes thieves get away with a few hundred dollars. Other times they escape with a dye pack that later explodes in their pocket.

The point is that these aren’t necessarily career criminals. It could become a “brief hobby” people adopt to make ends meet for their families. Who’s to say your neighbors or your coworkers wouldn’t commit a petty theft here and there to provide for their families. There are always spikes in crime around the holidays. A combination of “part-time crooks” and innocent victims who become careless or let their guard down account for this statistic. Follow these simple steps to ensure you don’t become a victim around the holidays.

Car Break-ins

This is easily one of the most common crimes committed on a daily basis. Criminals walk along cars at night pulling on door handles and looking into them. If the door happens to be open, bingo! If they think they see something valuable or easy to sell on the street, they break the window and take it out. Also note, car alarms normally don’t go off when windows are broken. Thieves will sometimes shake cars to see how sensitive the alarm is. Some of them completely disregard the alarm and break into cars any way since it only takes a minute or so.

As I’ve mention in a previous blog post, don’t leave any type of shopping bags or electronics boxes in your car. Don’t even leave shoppings bags filled with your gym clothes in the back seat. Thieves won’t hesitate to break your windows just to find out what was inside that bag. If you must leave shopping bags in your car, lock them in the trunk.

Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers

Much like keeping shoppings bags in your car, carrying them in the street isn’t any better. Department stores tend to stay open late during the holidays which is a perfect time for criminals to prey on people carrying multiple shopping bags. Travel to and from stores in groups while holiday shopping. Zipper or button any purses or wallets you’re carrying. Be sure to carry purses in front of you rather than on the side where thieves can run by and “snatch” them from you.

Don’t keep wallets in your back pocket. Pickpockets can easily spot this and will go on a shopping spree with your credit card before you even realize your wallet is missing.

Pickpockets can easily spot this and will go on a shopping spree with your credit card before you even realize your wallet is missing.

Keep your wallet in one of your front pockets or invest in a wallet chain. Tuck the chain slack into your pocket if you’re not into the “biker” look.

Bank Robberies

Bank robberies are normally limited to the bank tellers and the thieves. You shouldn’t completely dismiss the idea of becoming a “bonus” to a bank robbery. A thief who is waiting in line behind you may choose you instead of the bank if they notice you’ve just withdrawn a substantial amount of money. This also applies to using ATM machines as Adam Dachis of Lifehacker fame recently blogged about.

Be very discreet when it comes to withdrawing money from the bank or ATM machine especially when it comes to placing it in your wallet or purse. Pickpockets will sometimes wait near ATM machines to see where you’ve placed the money that was withdrawn.

Home invasions

There are numerous reports of home invasions and deception burglaries during the holiday season. Criminals dressed as FedEx, UPS, and Con Edison employees trick people into opening their doors.

Criminals dressed as FedEx, UPS, and Con Edison employees trick people into opening their doors.

Keep in mind, you have every right to question these people through the door. Most of us may have the same UPS employee or mail man that works in our area. If you don’t recognize the worker at your door, don’t be afraid to tell them to try again tomorrow or leave the package at the post office.

If you’re still unsure of what to do, call 911. Tell the operator there is a suspicious person you don’t recognize dressed as an employee in front of your door. Air on the side of caution if you don’t recognize someone before opening your door.

Burglaries

Families tend to travel during the holidays. This makes it easier for burglars to ransack your house and leave before you ever find out what happened. It’s very important to make sure anything used to gain entry into your house (doors, windows, vents, etc.) is secured and locked. Cameras, timers and alarms are also very effective when it comes to security. Do you think it’s worth the small investment to add to the security of your family and home?

Have the Post Office temporarily stop your mail delivery. Timers won’t fool criminals when you have mail piling up in front of your house. Ask your neighbors to remove any flyers or newspapers that may accumulate. These are both easy signs that let criminals know there’s no one home at the moment.

Mail and Packages

Packages are almost always left on doorsteps, near mailboxes, in apartment lobbies, etc. This invites nearly anyone to pick up your package and walk away with it. The worst part is that you can’t even report the packages stolen to the Police! A package that was never in your possession can’t be considered stolen. You’ll be directed to report your loss to UPS, FedEx,  the Post Office, etc. And who knows how long that investigation will take.

Send packages that require signature confirmation upon delivery. Ask your neighbors to hold any packages left in front of your door. Have your mail sent to a Post Office box or have the Post Office temporarily hold all of your mail for a week or two.

Of course this will never happen to YOU

There’s always one common thing I see whenever I show up to a burglary, robbery, car break-in, etc. The victim always says “I never thought this would happen to me.” Every victim I’ve come across thinks that it would happen to someone else. Well guess what? To someone else, you ARE someone else. By following the tips I’ve listed, you’re already on the path to acting smarter and safer than everyone else.

Please share any experiences, questions or suggestions, please leave comments below or feel free to e-mail me through my Contact Page. I reply to every e-mail I receive.