Protect yourself and your belongings, law officers say

Published: Friday, December 21, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 21, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.

As the holiday shopping and travel seasons go into overdrive, local police are warning students and residents to protect themselves against crime.

With so many people traveling for the holidays, unattended homes can be gold mines for burglars. One preventive measure, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office suggests, is to leave a radio or TV on while away to make the house seem occupied.

“Lock everything up and have neighbors call law enforcement with any suspicious activity,” said sheriff’s Lt. Todd Kelly.

The Sheriff’s Office also advised not to announce holiday travel plans on social networking sites and to put indoor and outdoor house lights on timers.

Burglaries to homes and businesses are prevalent this time of year, Gainesville Police reported. In December 2010, there were 131 burglaries reported to GPD, and 135 during the same period last year. In the first 10 days of December this year, GPD reported that there were 23 burglaries.

Most University of Florida students have left for the winter break, but for those still in town, UPD Capt. Jeff Holcomb offers some advice for staying safe.

“We suggest that students avoid walking alone at night,” he said. “If they walk alone, stay in well-lit areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”

He also said students should avoid distractions such as phone calls and texting when walking at night. If they notice someone suspicious or feel threatened, students should notify police immediately, he said.

Robberies and credit card fraud are also prevalent during this time of year but can be protected against by following some simple tips:

For those shopping on the Internet, ASO recommends using secure websites to purchase goods. Sites that begin with “https” are secure and encrypt information they send, including credit card numbers.

Packages should be delivered to relatives, neighbors or someone who will be home when packages arrive. Having packages delivered to the workplace is also an option, and signature confirmations should be requested on deliveries to ensure they aren’t left on doorsteps.

In-store shoppers should carry credit cards rather than large amounts of cash, according to the GPD. Shoppers needing cash from ATMs should look for machines that are in well-lit areas and watch for people lurking nearby.

If a purchase is made with a credit card, be sure to obtain the receipt copies or ensure that they are destroyed.

Shoppers should also park in well-lit areas and have keys in hand upon returning to their cars so they will be ready to unlock the door. Before re-entering their vehicles, shoppers should scan the interior of their cars to ensure no one is hiding inside.

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