Monday, December 16, 2013

The 12 Crimes of Christmas

The holidays are quickly approaching, and we can't help but gussy up our homes to make them look prim and proper to fit the theme of the season. Spiritedly doorways, radiant lights and fantastic inflatable decorations line the streets, kindling a warm feeling of security, tranquility and good fortune.

The only thing is, not everyone is as keen on the spirit of the season.

Unfortunately, the goodwill of the holidays doesn't necessarily drag down crime rates. In fact, in some areas of the country the holidays actually bring about slightly more crime. While Warrendale enjoys the blessings of a vibrant, connected community, holiday crime is a risk for every homeowner regardless of location.

Here're the 12 crimes you need to look out for this month, and a few tips on how to defend against them:
  1. Break-ins. With presents in the front window and lawn decorations at every corner, the holiday season is a burglar’s dream. Be wary of how you display your newest gizmos and gadgets and don’t let your outdoor ornaments create shadowy hiding places.
  2. Cybercrime. Some crimes are carried out digitally. This holiday season, guard yourself from spammers and hackers by installing anti-virus software and clearing out the cache on your web browser.
  3. Drunken driving. Holiday parties can lead to an influx of inebriated drivers, so keep an eye out for dangerous or erratic motorists when you hit the road. Drive defensively and practice caution. And if you partake of adult beverages yourself, use a designated driver, call a cab or take a bus.
  4. Public intoxication. Just like #3, beware of your surroundings (and the people around you) when you’re out and about.
  5. Vehicle crime. With millions of parking spaces packed to the brim at shopping malls and locals stores, carjackers and thieves may be on the prowl. Don't leave any enticing items such as a wallet or MP3 player sitting on your seat, and take care of your keys.
  6. Phishing/Vishing. Some scammers will use the holiday season to take advantage of the public's generosity. Always ask who is calling when you answer the phone and don't respond to any e-mails if you're not totally sure of the sender.
  7. Robbery. If you're out on the street with a brand new purse or nifty mobile device, you could be a target for a robbery. Stay completely aware of your surroundings, and try not to flaunt your new gifts.
  8. Littering. It sounds a little silly, but some communities dole out serious fines for littering. Dispose of all those boxes and wrapping paper properly. Or figure out a way to reuse it!
  9. Shoplifting. You know not to shoplift, but you may not know how to respond to a shoplifter. If you see a shoplifter, consult a store employee or security guard rather than confronting the person yourself. It's much safer to let the proper authorities deal with the issue.
  10. Identity Fraud. The holidays can mean quite a bit of spending. Be careful where you use your credit card and make sure you reveal personal information only at trustworthy establishments. has an entire feature on the topic if you need more information.
  11. Vandalism. If your yard or home is damaged in any way, report it to your local police department immediately. The glitz and glamor of holiday d├ęcor can be an open invitation for vandals, so it's fair to be suspicious if you notice something missing or dented.
  12. Commercial burglary. If you're a shop or restaurant owner, it might be smart to invest in a home security system. The addition of surveillance cameras will help you keep an eye on the store while you're enjoying your time off.
Publisher's note: My thanks to Drew Smithfield for contributing this article.

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