Christmas thefts

Christmas time is coming and with all the joy it brings, there are some grinches and porch pirates out there.

Sheriff Ramsey Bennett reminds citizens to be cautious during the holidays.

In law enforcement circles, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas generally sees an increase in “Grinch thefts” and “porch piracy”. As the name implies, “Grinch thefts” are cases involving the stealing of Christmas items. “Porch piracy” refers to the theft of packages delivered to homes and thieves stealing them from the porch.

While there have not been any instances of grinch thefts or porch piracy reported so far this year, the sheriff says it has occurred before.

The number of thefts and burglaries generally spikes in the weeks prior to Christmas.

“Thieves know it is Christmas, too, and they know folks have more items in their homes during the holidays,” says Bennett. “We had one case in recent years where the thieves wrapped up the items they had stolen and gave them as presents.”

There are some things residents can do to help keep thefts down.

“Citizens are our biggest help,” said Bennett. “I can’t count the number of cases that have been solved because the public was our eyes and ears. They called in and gave us a tip.”

While each case is different, Bennett points out most burglaries are now occurring in the daytime.

“They know most people work and so they go up and knock on doors. If no one answers, they break in and steal things,” says the sheriff. “If someone is at home, they cover by saying they’re lost and asking for directions or something like that.”

In the past, thieves tend to take big ticket items such as guns, televisions, DVD players and electronics.

The sheriff says there are some things homeowners can do to keep from being a victim.

They include:

• recording serial numbers and markings of personal belongings.

• making a video of personal belongings.

• keeping a record of information related to checks and credit cards.

• closing all window blinds and locking all doors.

There are also things homeowners can do to help law enforcement if they are the victims of a burglary.

“If you think you have been robbed, the best thing to do is leave your home immediately and call 911,” says Bennett.

The sheriff explained leaving is good from a security standpoint as the thieves may still be inside.

While he realizes the natural reaction is to go see what is missing, Bennett says leaving the scene may aid in the apprehension of the thieves.

“It keeps the crime scene intact,” he says. “Fingerprints can help solve crimes, but we can’t do anything if people are all over the place touching things.”

Other tips to avoid being a victim of theft during the holidays:

1. Report any suspicious person or vehicle in your neighborhood to law enforcement. If possible, get a license plate number.

2. Don’t put gifts under your tree until right before Christmas. If you do put your gifts out, make sure the tree is not in plain sight.

3. If you plan to go out of town, make arrangements to have the mail and newspaper picked up. Purchase a timer to have lights come on and go off at alternating times.

4. If you plan to be out of town for an extended period, you can ask for your residence to be put on “house watch.” The sheriff’s office will send an officer to patrol the area periodically.