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Police give holiday safety tips

Date: 12/20/2010

Dec. 20, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

GREATER SPRINGFIELD -- With the holiday season now upon us, the threat of crime, such as break-ins and burglary, is a concern to some, but can be prevented by taking easy steps to secure your property.

"Most of it is common sense," said East Longmeadow Police Chief Doug Mellis. "You have to be aware."

According to Wilbraham Police Chief Allen Stratton, car break-ins, which were a problem for the town in late October, are an increased concern around the holidays, as well.

"In general, the increase [in crime] can be attributed to larcenies from cars in shopping areas and at home because people are storing gifts in their cars," Stratton explained. "If you are going to store things in your car, be sue to secure your property in the trunk."

To that point, Mellis added that an increased number of GPS and other electronic devices for cars pop up around the holidays. They are popular gifts, but also popular targets for criminals.

House breaks are also often more frequent during the holidays because of the extra valuables, including gifts and expensive decorations, that are expected to be inside.

Those who are expected to be away from their homes for an extended period of time are encouraged to take steps to make it appear as if they are still home.

"If all the neighbors have their Christmas lights on until 2 p.m. and yours never come on, it's a good indication that you're not home," Mellis said, adding that timers for lights can be purchased at a reasonable price.

Making sure someone will be available to clear your driveway after a snowfall and take your mail in will also give the illusion that someone is still at the residence.

Mellis and Stratton stressed that the public remember that it is the eyes and ears for the police department and any suspicious activity should be reported.

"People should not be concerned about bothering the police department," Stratton said. "Observation is about behavior. If you see any suspicious behavior, it should be reported and we'll be there as soon as we can to investigate."

But break-ins should not be the only concern. People must also be aware of potential dangers while being out in public, as well.

"A lot of times this time of year, people have so much going on in their heads that they are not aware of their surroundings," Mellis said. "A lot of crime involves the shopping aspect."

Mellis cautions female shoppers to keep their pocketbooks in their sight at all times.

"It's not uncommon for women to put their pocketbooks in a shopping cart," he said. "When that happens, all they have to do is turn around to look at something and the next minute, it's gone."

Mellis added that, in the same vein, shoppers should be cautious while loading purchases into their vehicles and to keep items in sight to prevent them from becoming easy targets.

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