by Joel Justice, VCCCD Chief of Police
As the Chief of Police for the Ventura County Community College District, I would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season. I also want to share some safety tips, since crime generally increases during the holiday season. It is a time when people can become careless and vulnerable to theft and other holiday crimes. People are often in a rush buying gifts, decorating their homes, visiting friends or traveling. There is a big increase in the amount of people that are out shopping at the malls and grocery stores, packing the parking lots and waiting in lines at ATM machines.
With many stores extending hours late into the night, people head to the stores after work. At closing time, you see them walking around not paying attention to their surroundings. All of the holiday hurrying, stressing and shopping, tends to cause people to let their guards down. Inattention during the holidays gives thieves the opportunity to become less visible, making it easier for them to move through big crowds of rushed and distracted people without being noticed. Shoplifting, pickpocketing, robbery and theft from cars all increase during this time of year.
Thieves know that the police are overloaded during the holiday season and they take full advantage of it. They thrive on the fact that the police and stores’ loss prevention staffs have their hands full with amateur thieves who they arrest for shoplifting. Professional thieves are busy breaking into cars in the parking lots to steal gifts, mobile phones and electronics or robbing people or burglarizing their homes.
How to Reduce the Chances of becoming a Victim
The following tips can help you reduce your chances of being victimized this holiday season.
- If you’re outside and feel you’re in danger, head right back into the store and call for help.
- Try to shop during the day; if you do shop at night, do not do it alone.
- If you are alone, ask a security guard to walk you to your car.
- Park in a well-lit area rather than a dark desolate part of the parking lot.
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
- Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible. Consider bringing a security travel pouch instead. If you must carry a purse, do not swing it on your arm; clutch it and keep it close to your body.
- Always carry your driver’s license or identification along with necessary cash, checks and/or a credit card you expect to use.
- Recognize when you are rushed, distracted and stressed out, and be aware of your surroundings.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Pay for purchases with a credit card when possible.
- Keep cash in your front pocket.
- If you discover that a credit card is missing, notify the credit card company as soon as possible.
- Don’t assume that you misplaced it and will find it later.
- Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
- Be extra careful if you do carry a wallet or purse. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas.
- Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion if you are approached.
- Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you, including working in teams, with the intention of taking your money or belongings.
- Remember to lock your car. Keep all valuables at home, but if you have any in your car, keep them out of view.
- If you put packages in your car and intend on going back to the mall, move your car to a different parking lot. Thieves will watch you and when you lock your car and leave, they will break in or steal your car.
- Leave lights on in your house.
- If you have an alarm, use it.
- Never leave burning candles unattended and blow them out when you go to sleep.
- Keep candles out of reach of children and away from your Christmas tree.
- Check and clean your fireplace at least once a year.
- Watch for drunk drivers; DUI collisions also increase this time of year.
Lastly, be aware of who is on the road this time of year. Drunk driving increases tremendously with all the holiday parties. Being struck by a driver under the influence can forever change you and your families holiday season. If you see someone driving impaired, call 9-1- 1 immediately. Always remember, “See something, Say something.”
I hope you find these tips helpful and remember to remain extra diligent during the holiday season. Have a healthy, safe and memorable time.