With the arrival of the holiday season, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents to be vigilant and protect themselves from the types of crimes that typically increase this time of year.
“We are seeing more of a little bit of everything,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan told The Record on Monday.
That was the same day the Sheriff’s Office posted a holiday-themed warning to its Facebook page telling people to be sure they lock their car, house and garage doors to help prevent burglaries, and to plan ahead so they can try to be at home when packages are delivered instead of having them left on doorsteps.
Other tips included hiding jewelry in different parts of the home when leaving for an extended trip and to make sure a home’s alarm system is armed before leaving.
It’s the first of a series of warnings set to come out during the march toward Thanksgiving and beyond.
“We will be rolling out a different one every day,” Mulligan said.
Because this time of year can be so fast-paced, not just for consumers, but also for clerks working the busy stores, Mulligan said it creates an atmosphere not just for a criminal to act, but also for a distracted person to be taken advantage of.
He offered a few other tips for residents that will be part of the Sheriff’s Office warnings in the coming days.
As shoppers head out to busy shopping centers, Mulligan said, they should all take careful stock of their surroundings, particularly in busy parking lots, where car burglaries and other crimes could increase.
Should a person see something out of the ordinary, like an out-of-place vehicle or a person or group of people lingering too long, he or she should remain some place safe and contact law enforcement if necessary.
“Trust your instincts,” Mulligan said.
The same holds true for returning to a vehicle — whether it be a shopper or a clerk — at the end of a long shopping day, he added.
“We always recommend parking in a well-lit area,” he said.
Other safe shopping tips included for women to pay close attention to their purses — never leaving them unattended even for a short period of time.
“What you think was only 10 seconds could be a lot longer than that,” he said.
Mulligan also warned that with the increasing number of ways for people to have their credit information stolen, that they consider safe-guarding their money.
“It’s not a bad idea to get a prepaid debit card,” he suggested.
Loaded only with the planned amount to spend, such a card, Mulligan said, can keep a would-be thief from cleaning out a bank account if he or she gets ahold of the card number.
Beyond those shopping tips, he said, people should also be careful when throwing out post-holiday packaging, particularly if it was for the hottest electronics equipment of the season.
“Don’t put that box out on the street corner,” he said, suggesting instead that it be cut up and placed at the curb in a garbage bag so as not to signal that the item is in the home.
Mulligan pointed out that many of the crimes and tips — like locking car doors — that he highlighted are things that people should be be aware of and practicing throughout the year, but said it is good to get out reminders during the busy seasons.
And those who find themselves in a situation they don’t know how to handle or makes them feel uneasy shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help.
“They can always call us so we can take a look at it,” he said.