Authorities: Gifts in unlocked cars a tempting target so take preventive measures
By Emma Daniel
As holiday season arrives, so does an increased risk of property crime, said Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mike Swafford — but there are ways to protect your newly bought Christmas gifts and Black Friday finds.
Swafford said property crime is unfortunately common during the holiday season.
“It comes in different forms and fashions, but porch piracy especially now seems to ramp up,” he said.
If you leave packages unattended on your porch, you might become victim to “porch piracy” — when a thief simply grabs your delivery and walks away with it.
“If you’re like me and my wife, we’ve bought most of our Christmas presents already,” Swafford said. “It’s coming in from Amazon, getting shipped in, then porches start to get full. You can’t fully protect yourself if you’re not there, but there are some things you can do.”
Porch piracy prevention tips from Irene Cardenas-Martinez, Decatur Police Department spokeswoman, start with paying attention to when packages are scheduled to arrive.
“We recommend to schedule your packages to be delivered when you’re home,” she said. “Track your packages online. If you can’t be home at the time of delivery, coordinate with a neighbor or trusted friend to pick up your packages so they aren’t left unattended for long periods of time.”
She said the police department also suggests requesting delivery drivers to require a signature upon delivery and to place packages in less obvious locations than right beside your front door.
Swafford said those are all great tips.
“Ask for a signature, or you could have it delivered to your work address,” he said.
He said doorbell cameras like those from Ring are great at deterring theft, and they also create a video record of delivery.
If you’re doing your Christmas shopping in-store, you should also take precautions to prevent theft.
“Try to shop during the day, but if you must shop at night, do so with a friend,” Cardenas-Martinez said.
Preventing car theft
Swafford said shoppers should lock cars and limit the visibility of gifts to help prevent theft.
“As we get into the true holiday shopping season, it’s what you are carrying in your car, what’s visible in your car,” Swafford said. “You go into the mall, but you’ve already been to three other stores, and you have packages sitting in there. There (your vehicle) is, unattended, ripe with stuff in it.
“That becomes a target.”
Swafford said preventing thefts of items in your car is about “being low-key.”
“If you have a lot of stuff, put it in your trunk, or cover it up in the backseat,” he said. “You don’t want to entice anyone to make you a target.
But theft prevention doesn’t stop at locking up while out shopping — if you can’t hide the new iPhones in the house when you get home from shopping, locking your car even in your own neighborhood is imperative.
Performing a 9 p.m. routine can help protect your items from theft. Before you go to sleep, take all valuables from your vehicle, lock it and bring the key fob inside, make sure all windows are rolled up and turn on outside lights.
“If you take your stuff out of your car, if you do lock your car, if you leave outside lights on, you’re less likely to be a target. It’s that simple,” Swafford said.
He said people trying to steal things from cars in neighborhoods simply try the handle to see if it’s unlocked. Smashed windows aren’t as common “unless you’re out in the boonies,” Swafford said.
“If you think about what they’re trying to do, they’re in stealth mode,” he said. “They’re trying to hit as many cars as quickly as possible. That’s why they go through neighborhoods.”
He said entire neighborhoods enacting 9 p.m. routines create a community-wide deterrent for theft.
“Not that we want them to move on to the next house, but if everybody does it, maybe they’ll move on to the next street, next block, next county,” he said. “It really does make a difference.”