Christmas is getting closer and as last minute shopping increases, Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr and Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis have reminders and tips on avoiding being a victim of a theft or burglary.

According to DCPD data, the amount of burglaries taking place in the November and December months have maintained roughly the same numbers since 2014.

The numbers slightly increase then decrease year to year but not going any higher than 30 total burglaries to vehicles, residences or businesses from 2014-17.

"The best protection is not advertising items in the home by leaving drapes open after dark with lit up home, garage doors open or packaging from items like big screen TVs at the curb," Francis said. "Visible security cameras and a registered and monitored security systems are a great deterrent.

"They also provide evidence to pursue those who still proceed with the crime.

"Unfortunately one of the vulnerabilities we see too often is burglaries committed by people who have been allowed in the home under other circumstances such as providing a service for hire, a neighbor, a friend of a visiting friend or friends of the kids living in the home.

"Be mindful of who you let in your home and what they may take notice of; be mindful of your social media posts and what they may advertise either intentionally or unintentionally in the background of a photo you post; lock your car doors and don’t leave items in your vehicles that incentivize a break in.

"We take a lot of reports for vehicles that have been burglarized after being left unlocked, imagine how many others go unreported because the owner doesn’t even know it happened and doesn’t know for sure the item they now can’t find was left in the car and stolen."

Francis added that crimes take place on simple opportunities.

To avoid providing those opportunities or unintentional incentives, he said, "Good old fashioned getting to know neighbors and having phone numbers to be able to call if you see something suspicious can go a long way.

"Pay attention to your surroundings and who is watching. Lock your vehicles when you just pop into a store even if you park right in front of the big glass door and windows.

"It only takes moment for criminals to open that door and grab an item out or take the whole car if you’re leaving it running.

"Lastly, watch out for cons and frauds.

"If it sounds too good or you didn’t solicit the offer, be very suspicious. If you choose to trust at least verify first."

Carr concurred with getting to know your neighbors.

"The holidays are a great time to get to know your neighbors," Carr said. "It's a great time to meet the people who live next door, across the street and over the back fence.

"Neighbors watching out for neighbors help keep an eye out for suspicious activity and make communities safer."

Carr provided a list everyone could use regarding shopping in person, online, as well as additional ways to protect your hom:

Parking lot safety tips for holiday shoppers

Lock your vehicle and hide valuables, preferably in the trunk or locked compartment.

Before sunrise and after sunset, park and walk in well-lit areas and carry keys in your hand.

Stay alert to your surroundings and take a moment to glance around for possible suspicious persons, vehicles, and/or situations.

Prior to getting into your vehicle take a look inside and around before entering.

If you observe evidence of a possible burglary, call your local law enforcement agency.

For the sheriff’s office call 620-227-4501 or call Ford County Communications at 620-227-4646, Dodge City Police Department at 620-225-8180 or 911.

When you’re out shopping for the holidays, stay alert to surroundings

When in crowded places, be alert for potential thieves. Don’t overload yourself with packages.

Maintain visibility and mobility to avoid potential threats. Be wary of strangers approaching you for any reason.

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, avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carrying large amounts of valuables.

Never leave personal belongings unattended.

As an added precaution, make sure you have a record of all your credit card numbers in a secure place at home or bank safety deposit box.

Shop with friends. There is safety in numbers

Recognize that there is safety in numbers and arrange to shop with friends and relatives instead of going out alone.

Make sure everyone remains vigilant and looks out for each other.

Tips for holiday shopping with children

When shopping with children, keep a close eye on them at all times.

Consider coaching them to go to a store clerk or security guard if they become separated and be sure they know their first and last name so they can advise someone who they are.

Give children a contact phone number that they can carry on their person in case they do become lost.

Holiday safety tips for online shoppers

Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular.

The Internet does have risks so it is important to take steps to protect yourself when shopping online.

The National Cyber Security Alliance recommends that you make sure you have a security suite (firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware) installed and updated with the most current information before shopping online.

Also, keep your operating system and Web browser up-to-date.

Before you enter your personal and financial information for an online transaction, look for signs that the site is secure.

This includes a closed padlock on your Web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with "https."

This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured.

Never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase.

More tips for shopping online

Before providing personal or financial information, check the Web site's privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.

Never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service because you’ll have no recourse if something goes wrong.

Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of any email exchange with the seller.

Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there are no unauthorized charges.

If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

Keeping your home safe during the holidays

Be extra cautious about locking windows, sliders, and doors when leaving for any length of time. We suggest keeping all entrance points into your house secured while you’re at home as well.

Set indoor and outdoor lights on timers and think about doing the same with a television or radio to make it appear as if someone is home.

Never keep gifts or valuable objects in plain view from any window.

Close blinds, shutters, drapes, and curtains because if a burglar can see those items they may attempt to take them from you.

If a person knocks at your door and you don’t recognize them, don’t feel obligated to open your door.

Teach your children that by no means will they open the door to anyone prior to your knowledge and authorization. It should also be noted that criminals have entered homes through doggie-doors or other animal access points.

Let someone you trust know when you’re traveling during the holidays

Inform someone who’s trustworthy where you will be and when you might be expected back to your residence.

Ask a neighbor or other dependable persons to watch your house and retrieve your newspapers and mail if possible.

Watching the weather is an important safety factor for holiday travelers

In Western Kansas, severe winter weather is a true safety hazard. Stay tuned to weather conditions.

Anticipate inclement weather and plan accordingly.

Carry a safety kit in the tank and always use extreme caution while driving. Keep an eye out for pedestrians at all times.

When celebrating the holidays, celebrate responsibly

Many people celebrate the season by attending holiday parties with family and friends.

Enjoy these gatherings responsibly so this time of joy does not become a time of tragedy. Watch how much you drink.

Don’t drink then drive, get a ride with someone who is sober.

The sheriff’s office recommends you prearrange transportation if you plan on consuming alcoholic beverages.

"By following these tips," Carr said. "You can substantially reduce the risk of becoming a victim."

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