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Don't Get Scrooged: Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Pleasanton Police and MADD offer tips on how to protect yourself, your loved ones, your property and your money amidst the whirlwind of holiday season

Grinch. Photo courtesy: Morguefile
Grinch. Photo courtesy: Morguefile
At a house in Pleasanton in Saturday, a resident's daughter was home alone and heard a pounding on the glass sliding door that leads to the back yard. The girl said she heard a sound like someone tried to open it. The resident said there were no cars in the driveway and expressed relief that her barking dogs may have helped to deter a crime. Police officials say this is a typical tactic of seasoned residential burglars.

[Related post: Burglary Attempt on Greenfield Way??]

No one wants to be a victim of crime anytime of the year but during the holiday season, when property crimes tend to spike, police encourage residents and shoppers to take extra precautions to avoid falling victim to would-be Grinches on the prowl for easy targets. 

Holiday celebrations, out-of-town visitors and house guests also offer ample opportunity to overindulge, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD spokesperson Jody Iorns says fatal collisions tend to rise during the holiday season and MADD urges holiday revelers to designate a driver. 

[Related article: M.A.D.D. Calls I-580 Collision 'Stunning and Heartbreaking' and Says Drunken Driving Fatalities On the Rise]

Here are some tips, courtesy of the Pleasanton Police Department, to help keep your holidays merry and bright.

Regarding driving… 
• Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device. 
• If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area and shop with a friend. 
• Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, cars with tinted windows or vehicles occupied by loitering individuals. 
• Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked. 
• Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside. 
• Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight. Park your vehicle in another location if you are returning to the store after putting bags in your vehicle.
• Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car. 
• Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels, but never be so bogged down that you do not have a free hand. 
• When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings. 
• Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area. 
• Ask mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location. 

When using Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)…
• If you must use an ATM, choose one that is located inside a store, or well-lighted location. Withdraw only the amount of cash you need and try to use ATMs during daylight hours only. 
• Protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you. 
• Do not throw your ATM receipt away at the ATM location. 

Shopping till you drop… 

• Shop during daylight hours, whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member. 
• Avoid wearing expensive jewelry. 
• Don’t bring more than the amount of credit cards or cash you expect to use. 
• Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings. 
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. 
• Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible. 
• Keep cash in your front pocket. 
• Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. Click here for more tips from the FBI about protecting yourself from cybercrime.
• Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home. 
• Be extra careful if you do carry a wallet or purse. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit. 
• Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps. 
• Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, "con-artists" may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. [Related article: Grinch Alert: Safety Tips for Shoppers]

Got kids? 

• If possible, leave small children at home with a trusted babysitter. 
• Teach your child to go to a store clerk and ask for help in case your child is separated from you. 
• Teach children to stay close to you at all times while shopping. 
• Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom. 
• Children should never be allowed to go to the car alone and they should never be left alone in the car. 
• Teach children their full name, address and telephone number to give to police officers or mall security. Teach children to immediately inform you if a stranger is bothering them. 

Home is where the heart and valuable property is… 

• Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes. 
• When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail. Consider using Pleasanton Police Department’s FREE Vacation Check service. Related article: Going on Vacation? Call Pleasanton Police
• Indoor and outdoor lights should be on an automatic or photo-sensitive timer. 
• Leave a radio or television on so the house looks and sounds occupied. 
• Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows and doors of your home. 
• When setting up a Christmas tree or other holiday display, make sure doors and passageways are clear inside your home. 
• Be sure your Christmas tree is mounted on a sturdy base so children, elderly persons or family pets cannot pull it over on themselves. 
• If you use lights on your Christmas tree ensure the wiring is not damaged or frayed. Frayed or damaged wiring can cause a fire. 
• Place your Christmas tree in water or wet sand to keep it green. 
• Never place wrapping paper in your fireplace. 

Who’s knocking at your door?
• Be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts. 
• It is not uncommon for criminals to take advantage of the generosity of people during the holiday season by soliciting donations door-to-door for charitable causes although no charity is involved. 
• Have a trusted neighbor remove packages from your porch if you are unable to. Thieves are known to follow delivery trucks during the holidays. 

If you’re hosting a party… 

• Have non-alcoholic beverages available for party guests. 
• Find alternative transportation for intoxicated guests. 
• Arrange for an official designated driver for your party who will not drink at all. 

When attending a party… 

• Know your safe limit. 
• Never drink and drive. Have a designated driver selected BEFORE going to the party. 

[Related article: Holiday Crackdown On Drunken Driving Has Begun]


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