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‘Tis the Season to Be Cautious, Fa-La-La-La-La, La-Lock-Your-Doors

The holiday season is always a special time of year. Unfortunately, it is also a time when busy people become vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. We can never be too careful, too prepared or too aware.

When you’re out shopping for the holidays, be aware of your surroundings. Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, you need to pay attention to the events and even the people around you. Crowded places provide the perfect environment for potential thieves, especially when they see you are overloaded with packages. The holiday season is notorious for “con-artists” who may attempt to distract you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. When possible, also avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carrying large amounts of valuables and cash. As always, never leave personal belongings unattended.

Most importantly, pay attention to your children when out and about this busy time of year. You should always keep your loved ones close by at all times while shopping. Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom or go outside to the car. For understandable reasons, make sure younger children know their full name, address and telephone number, in the event they do get separated or lost.  Having this information will help store clerks or Citrus County Sheriff's Office deputies reunite them with their family.

Speaking of tips to protect you and your loved ones this holiday season, let’s also talk about property safety. As an added precaution, make sure you never leave valuables in plain sight - especially in your vehicle while you shop. Let’s face it, the last thing you want to come back to after a shopping trip is a burglarized car. Don't be a victim of a vehicle burglary, remember to always lock your car. Having your vehicle alarm set or anti-theft device in use could mean the difference between your happy holiday season or your horrible holiday season.  

Now, vehicles are not the only thing thieves target as we know. Criminals also like to scour your home for valuables. Last year from Oct. 1st to Dec. 31st, there were 130 total burglaries (vehicles/homes) with 69 of those burglaries resulting from an unsecured entry point. Before your shopping trips for gifts, or runs to the airport to welcome family, be mindful to lock your doors and windows when you leave and activate your alarm system if you have one. Another great idea would be to have a neighbor or family member watch your house if you plan to leave for an extended period. Don’t forget to turn on some lights. Leaving a radio or television on will make your home look occupied and deter any nearby burglars.

I am sure everyone will have plenty of lights on during the month of December from all of the festive decorations. If you use lights on your Christmas tree ensure the wiring is not damaged or frayed. Frayed or damaged wiring can cause a fire and pose a significant threat to you and your family.  When setting up a Christmas tree or other holiday displays, make sure doors and passageways are clear inside your home. In the event of an emergency, you need to have a clear exit. This also works two ways when emergency first responders are attempting to enter your home to help you.

Some assistance you do not want is from those sneaky criminals. It is not uncommon for criminals to take advantage of the generosity of people during the holiday season by soliciting donations. Some disguise themselves as a charity, going door-to-door for donations. Be sure to ask for their identification, and find out how the donated funds will be used. If you are not satisfied with their response, do not donate. Instead, seek out a well-recognized and charitable organization to donate to. This season is all about giving, but please make sure you are giving to a legitimate cause. 

Also, make sure you are not drinking and driving!  Last year alone, CCSO deputies made 57 DUI arrests from Oct. 1st to Dec. 31st, with 1 a.m. on Fridays and Sundays being the peak time for those violators. Out of the 706 traffic crashes our officers responded to in 2018, 41 of those were alcohol and/or drug-related. Please don’t add to this statistic, find an alternative method of transportation if you or your guests are intoxicated or arrange for an official designated driver for your party. If possible, have non-alcoholic beverages available for party guests, as well as high protein foods that will help slow the absorption of alcohol for those who do have a drink or two. Remember, only time will eliminate the alcohol from your body, know your safe limit and never drink and drive!

Enjoy this time with friends and family, but do so safely! The Citrus County Sheriff's Office wishes you a safe, happy and peaceful holiday season.

Happy Holidays,

Mike Prendergast