COVINGTON - As the holiday season gets under way this week, authorities urge residents to be aware of things they can do to keep their valuables and families safe.
Armed robberies, burglaries, entering autos and domestic disputes are among some of the crimes law enforcement officials said increase during this time of year.
"Thefts and burglaries sometimes do increase (around the holidays) ... because some people are too sorry to work and they go out and steal things for their Christmas," Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington said.
According to Lt. Bill Watterson, spokesman for the Newton County Sheriff's Office, thieves will be looking in shopping center parking lots and area homes for anything they can easily get their hands on and pawn for cash.
"I think residents should be aware of any suspicious persons or vehicles in their neighborhoods," he said.
To better protect one's home from burglars, Watterson recommends addressing any security deficiencies, such as opened windows or unlocked doors that should be secured before leaving the home. Also, any windows or doors that are broken should be repaired as soon as possible.
Trimming shrubs that block the view of the home from the street, replacing outdoor floodlights, putting up sufficient blinds or curtains on windows and installing alarm systems are all things authorities said will help protect household belongings from thieves.
For those planning to be out of town for the holidays, authorities recommend leaving lights on automatic timers and notifying a friend or family member who can keep an eye on the home.
Authorities also want people to be aware of the dangers they face when visiting local malls and shopping centers during the holidays.
"Obviously, be aware of your surroundings and the people around you," said Detective Daniel Seals, spokesman for the Covington Police Department. "Inevitably, we see things taken out of cars that were left unlocked or purses taken out of shopping carts because just for a second, (someone) turned around."
The following are recommendations from local authorities while shopping for the holidays:
· Carry your keys in your hand and be ready to enter your vehicle;
· Walk in lighted areas and don't shop alone
· Keep valuables concealed, preferably in the trunk;
· Return to your vehicle periodically to check on it and unload any purchases you have made;
· Use debit or credit cards to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
"The holidays are a time of a lot of action and people doing a lot of things, having a lot of activities going on, and they're not always thinking about their personal safety and security," Seals said. "What people need to understand is although they're out there having a good time with their family, there's unfortunately somebody out there who's looking to steal, and they don't care if it's the holidays."
Another issue authorities said they commonly see during the holidays are domestic disputes, specifically custodial disputes between the parents of young children.
To avoid any type of argument or physical confrontation, Watterson advises parents to meet at a neutral site, such as the sheriff's office or a fire station, to drop off their kids.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.