Stay safe this holiday season

December 7, 2010 11:31:00 AM



The shopping season is in full swing, and with it comes an inevitable uptick in thefts and scams. 


An alleged shoplifting incident at a store in Leigh Mall a few days ago ballooned into a cross-town chase and burglary charges. This incident is rare in that it was reported -- countless shopliftings are either more successful or less dramatic, and don''t end up in the paper. 


Burglaries in Columbus, fueled in part by the Great Recession, are up year-to-year. It''s no secret that when the economy goes down, crime goes up. The Columbus Police Department and other local agencies are doing their best to clamp down on these crimes, many of them crimes of opportunity made easy by people who don''t safeguard their property.  


More disturbing is the age of the alleged perpetrators in many recent crimes. Fourteen-year-old Dontae Moody is becoming a regular in our pages, already arrested for a couple of convenience store robberies, and most recently in a string of home burglaries. Over in Starkville, a handful of teens and juveniles have been arrested for robbing a convenience store with a shotgun, and are suspected in a second, earlier convenience store robbery. 


Episodes like this come and go, and are more serious than the typical property crimes. But during the holidays, don''t make it easier for criminals to take advantage. 


Of course, lock your home''s doors and windows. Lock your car doors. When out shopping store-to-store, keep your valuables and shopping bags in your car out of sight. 


We hear about these simple tips this time of year, every year, from the Columbus police and other sources. We also hear of too many burglaries that could have been prevented if people followed them. 


One simple safeguard we use is, when buying valuable items, not to go waltzing back to the car alone through a huge parking lot. Have someone with you when you''re walking out with that new computer, Xbox or piece of jewelry. Best yet, have someone pull up and meet you at the store''s door. 


We also see an uptick in scams of all sorts this time of year. Most of us learned when we were 5 years old not to talk to strangers -- the axiom still holds true for grown-ups. Don''t give money over the phone or to random callers -- if you want to give to a charity, look up their number and call them yourself to ensure you''re talking to the real thing. Likewise for people going door-to-door, and randomly approaching you in parking lots, of all places. We urge you to give to charity. But do it to reputable organizations like the United Way. Save your change and folding money for the Salvation Army''s red kettle, or your church''s collection plate. 


Local police have their hands full this time of year. Make their workloads a little easier, and save yourself heartbreak or worse, by taking simple steps to safeguard your money and belongings this holiday season.