As the holiday season approaches, I want to remind you of some simple steps you can take to avoid becoming the victim of a crime.
While shopping, don’t carry or flash large sums of cash; carry only as much as you need for the day.
When you’re out shopping or running errands, keep your valuables secured; out of site, preferably in the trunk of your automobile. As always, the car doors should be kept locked and the windows fully closed. Have your keys in your hand when you return to your vehicle and check the area to be sure that everything is in order — including the interior of the vehicle.
If everything is not in order, return to a store, locate a security guard, or call law enforcement, so that someone can accompany you to your car. Your personal safety should be your number one concern.
All trips should be planned. Someone should know your destination, where you are leaving from, and what time to expect you to return, as well as the route you are taking. This will make it easier to re-trace your travels, should you not return home when expected.
If you break down, stay with your car, raise the hood, and keep the doors and windows locked. If you don’t have a cell phone, wait until someone stops and ask them to call law enforcement. DO NOT accept rides from a stranger.
Never leave handbags or personal articles unattended in shopping carts or common areas of stores and never carry more packages than you can handle.
Pay attention to your surroundings and stay aware of the activities of those around you. Be especially careful around public restrooms and other areas where strangers are present. Using safety consciousness is a good practice to develop especially during the holidays when increased numbers of people could mean a greater potential for danger.
When walking or jogging, try to enlist a friend and use well-lit, highly-traveled routes.
At home it is a good idea to have presents and gifts secured and out of view. Someone should not be able to look in a window and see all of your presents. Many burglaries during the holidays have been committed just to steal gifts. Keep your doors and windows locked and your shades drawn at night. In the evening turn on exterior lights. Good outside lighting not only makes your home more attractive, it is also a deterrent to crime and allows passing law enforcement officers to better inspect your home and yard.
If you must be away for periods of time, allow for your home to have that “lived-in” appearance: use timers for lights, keep your lawn maintained, and have mail and newspapers collected or stopped.
Finally, be conscious of fire safety and weather hazards with trees, ornaments, bulbs, and cords.
I hope these reminders are beneficial to you. There are additional, valuable resources on our website: www.sjso.org. Feel free to email any concerns to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. During this time, and throughout the year, we stand ready to assist you.
From all of the men and women of your St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, have a safe and happy holiday season.
David B. Shoar
St. Augustine, FL