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By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published December 19, 2022
WARREN — The hustle and bustle of the holiday season entails extra activities, from shopping for that perfect gift, to rushing to holiday parties or just checking off everything on your to-do list.
People can become consumed with activity, preoccupied and let down their guard.
Commissioner Bill Dwyer of the Warren Police Department said awareness and vigilance are among the keys to staying safe.
“During the holiday season, people have a tendency to get complacent, making them more susceptible to crime,” Dwyer said. “Stay vigilant. You can never be too vigilant or too careful.”
Warren’s top law enforcement officer shared a list of tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season.
Don’t drink and drive
This should go without saying, but it topped the commissioner’s list of tips for staying safe and keeping others safe.
“If you are going to drink, have a designated driver, taxi service for transportation or Uber,” Dwyer said.
Better watch out for scams
‘Tis the season to give, and many increase their charitable donations. But scams run rampant.
“This is a big one,” said Dwyer.
Phone scams perpetrated by callers claiming they are with a known charity are another thing to watch out for.
Seniors are often targeted
Although many of today’s seniors are mobile, independent and accustomed to going where they choose on a whim, they are often targets during the holiday season.
“Seniors are most vulnerable and targeted for carjackings, purse snatching and robbery,” said Dwyer.
He advised seniors to have a friend or trusted relative accompany them when going out, to shop during daylight hours and to bring a friend or family member along when shopping at night. Dwyer said seniors should also park in well-lit areas and or close to the store, being mindful to lock their vehicle doors and set the alarm.
Hide packages left in vehicles
No matter who’s doing the shopping, any gifts and packages should be placed in the trunk. If you must put gifts in the back seat, conceal the packages.
According to Dwyer, thieves go from car to car looking for unlocked doors. If the vehicle is unlocked, your gifts will be taken immediately.
The commissioner also advised to never leave your car running, to always have your keys ready when you return to your vehicle and again, to be aware of your surroundings and any suspicious activity.
Dwyer said people can often feel when they are being watched.
“If you feel you are under surveillance, wait it out,” Dwyer said.
If you suspect you are being watched, he said it is best to wait safely in the store or to enlist the help of security or the police.
Purses, wallets tempt thieves
“A lot of ladies, especially seniors, will get out of the car, and it will be a purse snatching,” said Dwyer.
He cautioned shoppers to avoid openly carrying a purse or wallet, and to conceal it on your person if you do.
Dwyer said to not put your purse or wallet in a shopping cart and to avoid wearing expensive clothes or jewelry when shopping, so as not to bring added attention to yourself.
When checking out in a store, he said to protect your PIN. Dwyer also suggested reviewing credit card and bank statements and reporting any suspicious activity to your bank or the Warren Police Department.
Dwyer said strangers will sometimes make a scene in an attempt to distract you, to catch you off guard, and steal or swindle.
Keep an eye on the kids
Dwyer said to avoid leaving children home alone when the holidays have you running around. Instead, get a trusted family member or an older sibling to stay with them.
Of course, children should never be left to wander alone while parents shop, and they should never be left unattended in a vehicle.
If you do see children alone in a vehicle, the commissioner said it’s best to call the police.
“Call 911 because the kids are unsafe in that vehicle alone,” Dwyer said.
Keep your home safe
The commissioner advised keeping your gift receipts and taking photographs to provide proof of ownership for expensive merchandise.
For those looking to go away for the holidays, he suggested having a friend, trusted family member or a neighbor watch your home. He said it’s always a good idea to let the Police Department know you’ll be away.
“Home invasions increase during the holiday season,” Dwyer said. “Make sure you notify the Warren Police Department and request a routine check.”
The commissioner said address checks are announced at roll call and the officers assigned to patrol that area will give the home special attention and may even walk around the premises.
Beyond that, he advised those leaving home for the holidays to set lights on a timer, to leave the radio or a television that can be viewed from the outside on, and to make sure any gifts under the tree are not visible from the outside.
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