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How to stay safe for the holidays

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe

As Christmas and New Year's draw near, so does the potential for crime, including break-ins and thefts.

To keep you and your family safe, Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr shared some tips.

Get to know your neighbors

What better way to get to know your neighbors than the holidays. In an effort to keep communities safe, neighbors watching out for neighbors regarding suspicious activity can keep potential burglars away.

"Be extra cautious about locking windows, sliders, and doors when leaving for any length of time," Carr said. "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."

For those with front windows easily viewable from the street, keep valuable objects from being seen by keeping blinds, drapes and shutters closed.

Also remain vigilant when people knock on your door, especially when using online shopping and package delivery.

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

For those who travel this year, inform people you trust where you will be and when you expect to return.

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

Parking lot safety

Don't forget to lock your vehicle. Try not to keep valuables in plain sight and rather lock them in the trunk or other locked compartments.

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

When shopping in crowded places, stay alert of your surroundings as well and try to maintain visibility and mobility by not overloading with carrying packages.

"Be wary of strangers approaching you for any reason," Carr said. "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."

When shopping in public, there is always safety in numbers. Take shopping trips with friends and relatives and keep an eye on children if they are with you.

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

Online shopping

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, people should ensure they have a security suite (firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware) installed and updated with the most current information before shopping online. 

A secure site will feature a closed padlock on the web browser address bar or a URL address that begins with "https." 

Check the website's privacy policy before providing personal or financial information and familiarize yourself with 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," Carr said. "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."

Celebrate responsibly

As always during the holidays, watch how much you drink.

"Many people celebrate the season by attending holiday parties with family and friends," Carr said. "Enjoy these gatherings responsibly so this time of joy does not become a time of tragedy. 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."

Additional measures in staying safe from theft is having a record of credit card numbers kept in a bank safety deposit or secure place inside your home.

If you witness a potential burglary call the Ford County Sheriff's Office at 620-227-4501 or call Ford County Communications at 620-227-4646 or 911.

To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.