LAURINBURG – Local law enforcement agencies want residents to remember there are Grinches out there lurking around, waiting to steal holiday joy.
“During this time of year whether we’ve been good or bad, we all want gifts, and we know that some people will seek other means to get them,” said Capt. Earl Haywood Chief Detective of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office. “Just know that, [we] Santa’s elves are working hard to check for that Grinch who wants to steal Christmas.”
To find those Grinches the sheriff’s office will increase its numbers and add to patrols.
“We’ll add extra personnel and work the areas during the holiday season,” Haywood said. “[Thieves] know people generally carry more money than they normally would. We’ll try to be an extra presence in the county to deter crime. We’ll get out, go in stores, talk to people and make our presence known. That’s normally a high deterrent.”
The police have also increased their presence in town for the month December in hopes of deterring criminal activity, according to Assistant Police Chief Terry Chavis.
“The Laurinburg Police Department will have extra patrols out in the shopping centers during the shopping season, and Wal-Mart and Belk often hire extra officers to perform sweeps of their parking lots and inside the business,” Chavis said.
Last year, Laurinburg Police Department took 15 calls for home break ins and nine motor vehicle break ins during December, according police records. The number of residential break ins doubled from eight reported in November. In true Grinch fashion, some thieves even went as far as stealing Christmas decorations from resident’s homes.
Shoppers and home owners can assist the police in their efforts by not being afraid to report suspicious activity and taking steps to protect themselves, Chavis said.
The best protections against becoming a victim are to park in well-lit areas and be aware of surroundings while getting into and out of your car.
If residents believe they see something suspicious, they should report it and go to another location.
“If you see a suspicious person or persons lingering in parking lots, do not park. Report it,” Chavis said placing emphasis on the admonition not to park in the area.
When going to and from the car, don’t over burden yourself with packages. This makes a person and easy target.
People should pay attention to where they park as well.
“When you’re out shopping make sure you park close to the store if you can,” Haywood said. “Stay away from large vehicles that would obscure people trying to snatch purses or rob you.”
Shoppers should always lock car doors and close all windows and sunroofs.
To protect your vehicle and purchases, the old adage, “Out of sight, Out of mind,” applies, according to Chavis. If you will be shopping at several different stores, do not leave packages where would-be thieves might see them. Hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.
There are a few other precautions to follow in order to safeguard your physical well being: keep a close eye on your wallets and handbags, wear them close to your body. Don’t leave purses and wallets in a shopping cart. Never carry large amounts of cash.
Haywood also advises traveling in pairs as a means to ward off criminals.
To guard against residential break ins, Haywood advises being aware of people’s comings and goings in your neighborhood.
“Be aware of suspicious cars and people walking through the neighborhood and people coming to your door to ask questions. Call law enforcement to come out, do an interview and identify people so we can verify why they are there,” Haywood said. “It’s usually not random when a break in happens. They know what homes to hit based on patterns of movement.”
Residents vacationing over the holiday should let neighbors, friends and relatives know they will be away and make arrangements to have someone collect the mail and check on the home, and leave contact numbers in case of an emergency.
Homeowners who will be out of town can also register with both the Laurinburg Police Department and the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office to have officers check on their houses while they are away. Go to the agency that covers your neighborhood and request an application.
There are also measures to protect your home and belongings after the holidays.
Don’t place large amounts of boxes, wrapping paper or boxes from items like game systems or televisions beside the roadway for trash collection. This is an advertisement to thieves that there are items worth stealing in the home.
Home owners should also take an inventory of their belongings.
“Update your inventory by documenting serial numbers to new gifts, and take pictures of them,” Chavis said.
Recording serial numbers and taking photos assists authorities in tracking down your items if they are pawned. If the items are recovered and residents have documentation of belongings they will be able to reclaim their items, otherwise there is no proof that the stolen goods belong to them.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169