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Thieves busy over holidays

Fred Prechel, Citizens on Patrol volunteer, has been busy with the Lockout Auto Crime prevention program that checks cars in parking lots to ensure doors are locked and valuables are hidden. Volunteers leave a note on windshields to remind the vehicle owners to ensure they are protecting themselves from potential theft. - Kristi Patton/Western News
Fred Prechel, Citizens on Patrol volunteer, has been busy with the Lockout Auto Crime prevention program that checks cars in parking lots to ensure doors are locked and valuables are hidden. Volunteers leave a note on windshields to remind the vehicle owners to ensure they are protecting themselves from potential theft.
— image credit: Kristi Patton/Western News

With people scrambling to prepare for the holidays, the RCMP are reminding everyone to make sure to take time for the necessary precautions so your holiday cheer isn’t ruined by criminal activity.

“Although theft occurs year-round, it is the Christmas shopping season and thefts from vehicle are expected to rise,” said Const. Kris Clark, RCMP media relations officer.

In Penticton, the Citizens on Patrol volunteers run a program called Lock Out Auto Crime with the community policing officer Jim Porteous. Volunteers patrol busy parking lots, leaving reminders on cars where they see money, valuables or packages visible.

“We haven’t been leaving notices because it has been so wet out that they just get destroyed. But they have been patrolling, looking at plates and letting their presence be known,” said Porteous. “There are so many cars that are hatchbacks and people being careless leaving cars unlocked. The other day I found a package on top of a person’s vehicle. They forgot to put it inside and I grabbed it to head back into the mall with it and a woman came out having just realized what she had done.”

Porteous said people should be extremely mindful where their children are while they are shopping. The RCMP officer said just last weekend while at a shopping centre he saw a number of people lose track of their kids.

“There is so much going on at a busy place like a shopping centre that parents have to be really mindful of where their kids are at all times, especially at this time of the year,” said Porteous. “People’s minds are other places and can lose track of what is happening around them very easily.”

Thieves often take advantage of the holiday season, and Porteous reminds people not to make it easy for them to do that. He suggests breaking down all boxes from new electronics or toys before people put their recycling out.

“Closer to Christmas we sometimes see break-ins of residences and people’s gifts might be laid out under the tree so it is pretty easy pickings for thieves. Right after Christmas people are putting their garbage out and are doing the right thing by recycling but they are broadcasting all the new toys, TVs or computers or exactly what they got for Christmas,” said Porteous.

Holiday parties will continue right through to the new year and Porteous said to make sure you know who you are inviting into your home and ensure that everyone gets home safe.

“The homeowners are responsible for their party so they are also responsible for the amount of alcohol people drink. Make sure you take the time to call a cab for guests and watch to make sure they haven’t been drinking if they are driving home,” said Porteous.

Here are a few tips to follow in order to keep the season bright:

n Don’t withdraw more money than you need when visiting ATMs. Thieves lurk in parking lots around financial institutions. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of anyone following you. If you suspect that your PIN number has been compromised, contact your financial institution immediately.

n Children should never be left unattended while shopping. If for some reason your child becomes separated from you, make sure they know what to do. Have them go to the nearest cashier to tell them they are lost.

n Don’t make it easy for pickpockets and thieves. Men should carry their wallets in their front pockets while women should carry their purses close to their body. Avoid wrapping purse straps around your body as doing so could cause injury in the event someone grabs your purse. Don’t leave your purse in a shopping cart.

n If possible, park under lighting and close to entrances. Never leave your children unattended in your vehicle and place your purchases in your trunk. Purchases visible in your back seat can be stolen by simply smashing your window. This also applies to any other item left in plain view.

 

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