Don’t be a victim this holiday season

Published 10:31 am Saturday, December 5, 2009

FRANKLIN—The holiday season can be a tempting time for would-be criminals.

“We certainly see an increase in pickpocketing, home invasions and burglaries and personal property crimes,” said Michelle Boykins, the director of communications and marketing for the National Crime Prevention Council, an Arlington-based nonprofit organization that aims to reduce crime and violence in communities nationwide.

However, taking a few simple steps could help reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim this holiday season, according to the Franklin Police Department.

“During the holiday season, we definitely increase our patrols around the shopping areas of the city,” said Franklin Police Lt. Tim Whitt. While the police are doing their part, it’s important that shoppers are also vigilant.

The police department released a list of suggestions to keep people safe as they shop this season.

Vehicles should never be left unlocked and all windows should be up. It’s also important never to leave valuable or newly purchased items in plain sight in vehicles. Valuables should be secured in your home or in the vehicle’s trunk. At night, be sure to park in well-lit areas.

If at all possible, avoid shopping alone; a larger group is more likely to deter a would-be criminal. Shoppers should always be alert and pay attention to their surroundings — avoid carrying too many packages at one time, and have your keys in your hand as you walk to your vehicle.

Shoppers shouldn’t hesitate to ask store employees or security to escort them to their vehicle, or to report any suspicious activity in stores or parking lots.

Personal items, such as purses, should never be left unattended in shopping carts. It’s also a good idea to record serial numbers of valuable items, because it will help the police as they try to recover the items.

While some cities report a spike in thefts from vehicles and other property crimes during the holiday season, Whitt said the Franklin hasn’t, and he credits the officers who patrol the area.

“The guys have done an excellent job,” he said.

Caution should also be used when shopping online. Shoppers should only use Web sites that they know and trust, and should check the background of companies they aren’t familiar with.