Remember Home Alone—the classic holiday movie from the early 90s, starring Macaulay Culkin, when he was an adorable, hilarious, charismatic kid? He played young Kevin who was mistakenly left behind when his family took off for France. Kevin cunningly came up with ways to outsmart two burglars trying to steal from his home.
Holiday-related property crime, such as larceny, burglary and robbery, is not just limited to this classic comedy film. These types of crimes often increase, at least slightly, during the Christmas season.
“Danville [Illinois] Police Deputy Director Doug Miller said the city usually tends to see an increase in the number of thefts and shoplifting reports this time of year,” wrote Brian L. Huchel for The Commercial News (December 2, 2012). “…A person’s car or truck becomes an easy target, and numbers show an increase in the number of vehicle burglaries in Danville around the Christmas season.” When shoppers store some of the merchandise they have just bought in their car and then return shopping, it makes vehicles prime targets for burglars.
“Officer Jason Willingham, from the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Police Department, says criminals tend to strike more during the holiday season because they know there are many people out holiday shopping,” wrote Laura Jerpi in her December 2012 South Source article, “It’s The Most Dangerous Time of the Year”. “…Criminals don’t look as suspicious when walking around the parking lot looking for a car to break into, because they blend in easier, Willingham says.”
Other crimes that may increase this time of year include purse snatchings (perhaps because shoppers may be carrying more cash than usual), purchases made with counterfeit money, identify theft (i.e. from stolen credit card and debit cards), scams (such as phony charities or stolen items being sold online) and even bank robberies.
O’Ryan Johnson of the Boston Herald described (in his article “Robber tries, tries again”) how one female suspect allegedly attempted to rob two banks before successfully robbing a third yesterday. “[Boston FBI spokesman Greg] Comcowich said the holidays tend to bring out more bank robbers looking for a quick score,” reported Johnson.
Residences (just like in Home Alone) are also targets for burglary, particularly if it looks like no one is home (which may be common this time of year due to parties, concerts, errands and busy shopping schedules) and if a Christmas tree with a lot of presents underneath is situated close to a front window.
“[Director of South University’s Department of Criminal Justice, Roger] Humber says that crimes such as theft rise as a result of people’s increased financial needs during the holidays, crimes such as assault and domestic violence tend to increase because of the added stresses of the season and offenses involving drugs and alcohol tend to rise, because of an increase in celebrations during the season,” reported Jerpi. Motives related to thefts in terms of financial need may range from someone impoverished wanting to be able to provide gifts and food for their family to an addict craving their next fix or a professional theft looking to ‘clean up’ during a lucrative time of year.
Here are some tips to help you avoid being a victim of burglary or theft in the next few days:
• Park in a well-lit area and ensure the vehicle is locked and that all valuable items are out of sight. (Place shopping bags, purses and electronics in the trunk). Take great care to notice where you park so you can return to your vehicle without looking lost or confused (avoid looking vulnerable).
• When approaching your vehicle to leave, walk confidently with your keys in hand.
• Try not to shop alone. Carry limited amounts of cash and keep it as close to your body and in front of your body as possible (either in secure front pockets or hold your purse or bag in front of you and close to your body).
• The fewer debit or credit cards you carry, the better. When entering card pin numbers, block the keypad with your body. When withdrawing a large amount of money from an ATM, immediately return to your car or a safe place with the amount withdrawn.
• When shopping online, only make purchases from sites you know are reputable.
• At home display holiday gifts and valuables away from windows. Keep some lights on (you can use timers) to make it appear as if someone is home.