Protect Yourself This Holiday Season

In many ways the holidays bring out the best in people. It is a time for giving and sharing, for visiting with family and friends, and for remembering what is most important to us.

In other ways, they bring out the worst in people: stress, overindulgence, airing of family grievances, and something else which might really ruin a holiday – home burglary.

No one is immune, warns Sergeant Archie Ezell with the Atlanta police gang unit. In fact, the sergeant expects theft to be worse danger this year than in the past.

"An APD employee went home […] and found it broken into," Ezell said. "Not only did they steal the presents under the tree, they stole the ornaments off of the tree and the food from the refrigerator. It dawned on me then that the economy has gotten really bad and people are out of work and we can expect an increase in thefts."

Enzell explains that a lot of homeowners make themselves targets by advertising what is waiting for thieves inside. Sometimes they do this by leaving the boxes for their new flat screen TV visible on the curb with the trash; other times they do it by opening their windows to display their extravagantly decorated tree, and all the gifts underneath along with it.

"One of my neighbors bought a bunch of expensive audio equipment and he had all the boxes sitting by the curb instead of cutting them up and putting them in a trash bag," Ezell said. "There are people who ride around to see what you got. You are just setting yourself up to be a victim."

Volkan Topalli, gang expert and professor at Georgia State University, interviews gang members as part of his job. According to him, crime picks up around holidays for the same reason it picks up around paydays. Criminals follow the economy.

"They are aware of economic patterns," he said. "They know when the welfare checks come, and that is a day when people will have cash in their pocket; and they know Friday and Saturday are good days to rob people because they get paid; and they know people are brand-new-item-heavy around Christmastime and they’re storing them in their homes.”

The National Crime Prevention Council offers a number of easy, common sense tips for avoiding theft this holiday season and all year.

• When shopping, park in well lit areas, avoid over burdening yourself with packages, and attempt to keep purchases out of sight by hiding them in the trunk. If possible, shop with a friend.

• Make sure to lock your home’s doors and windows – more than 60 percent of burglaries do not involve forced entry.
• Don’t leave gifts where they can be seen from outside.

• Stop mail and newspaper delivery while you travel, to avoid having it pile up and tell potential thieves that you aren’t home.

• Also while traveling, be careful in motels. Use main entrances to return to your room, and don’t answer the door without verifying who it is first. Check with the front desk if someone claims to be an employee.

• Inventory valuables, especially new ones. Photograph, video tape, and secure serial numbers where possible.

Just follow a few simple safety precautions can assure that this holiday season won’t be one that you remember for all the wrong reasons.

From all of us at the Law Offices of Michael Lawson Neff, have a safe, happy and healthy holiday!