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Safety tips for holiday season: Local police departments offer vacation watch programs for out-of-town residents
The Prosper Police Department is encouraging area residents to be extra vigilant during the holiday season, which brings an added threat of certain types of crime. According to the FBI, nearly 400,000 burglaries occur nationally each year in November and December.
Celina doesn't see a huge increase in crime around this time of year because of its lack of shopping areas, said police sergeant Shea Scott, but there are still a number of holiday safety tips residents can follow while at home or shopping in neighboring cities.
Prosper assistant chief Gary McHone said that many safety measures involve simple common sense and good judgment. For example, he said that if someone receives an expensive item as a gift, such as a large TV, they shouldn't place the box in front of their home where potential criminals can see it and take notice.
Another way to stay safe during the holiday season is through vacation watch programs that both the Celina and Prosper police departments offer. Under these programs, the homes of residents who are out of town are monitored by patrolling police officers who notify them if anything is out of the ordinary, such as the presence of unknown vehicles.
Prosper residents can request a vacation watch by visit the police department's page at www.prospertx.gov or by calling 972-347-2226. Celina residents can contact their police department at www.celina-tx.gov or by calling 972-382-2121.
Here are a few additional safety tips from the Prosper PD and National Crime Prevention Council:
While at home:
Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when leaving home, even for a few minutes.
Do not display holiday gifts where they may be seen from a window or doorway.
Store gifts away before you go on a holiday trip. Also, test smoke detectors and change batteries where necessary.
Use only fire-resistant ornaments on your holiday tree and make sure electric lights, wiring and plugs are in good working order.
Avoid using too many extension cords, and use only UL (Underwriters Laboratories) approved cords when stringing lights outdoors.
Don’t leave lights on overnight or when you are away from home.
Do your shopping before dark, if possible.
Try to coordinate shopping trips with a friend or group.
Do not park in a poorly-lit or isolated parking lot or area, no matter how convenient it may seem.
Lock packages in your vehicle’s trunk or, if no trunk, out of plain sight.
Keep the vehicle doors locked even when driving and windows closed when not in the vehicle.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. When possible, pay for purchases with a card or check.
Teach your children to go to a store clerk or security guard and ask for help if you become separated.
Children should never go into a parking lot alone.
While shopping online:
Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software.
Everyone's computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed. Visit www.bytecrime.org for free software downloads.
Keep your personal information private and your password secure. Do not respond to requests to "verify" your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
Beware of "bargains" from companies with whom you are unfamiliar - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or "https" in the URL address.
Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.
For more information on e-scams, visit the FBI’s new E-Scams and Warnings webpage at http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams.htm.
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