NSCO warns shoppers to use caution

COVINGTON - Newton County law enforcement officials are warning residents to keep their automobiles locked up during the holiday season.

"I wish everyone could leave their cars unlocked and not worry about it, but that's just not the way it is," said Newton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell.

He said entering auto incidents seem to come in spurts and acknowledged there is no shortage of that type of crime.

"If people lock up their cars, suspects will break their windows out, but then people who are leaving their cars unlocked, makes them a softer target," he said. "We advise to make it as hard for them (criminals) as you can."

Mitchell said leaving personal belongings and valuables within plain sight in a vehicle makes it more appealing to a criminal - if he can't see anything worth taking, he might not want to risk going to all the trouble to break in on the chance that he might find something worthwhile.

"I know it's a pain, but if you have a GPS device, take it out," he said. "And don't leave weapons in your car. Just don't leave anything in there that makes your car a target."

Sheriff Joe Nichols reiterated the warning by saying that crimes against property will be on the increase between Thanksgiving and Christmas and citizens should think before putting themselves at risk.

"Don't shop in places that you feel uneasy going to," he said. "We all know there are shopping places in the metro area where people just don't feel safe anymore. Fear's a good thing. It keeps you alive. Don't ignore those feelings."

He recommended that women not carry multiple credit cards while shopping. Too often women use large purses that they might put down to look at an item, and thieves are always on the lookout for an opportunity to strike. Nichols recommends using a smaller wallet, with cash and only one credit card.

He also warned that it is especially important to leave your home as secure as possible during the holidays as burglaries will increase, as well.

"And anytime you're in doubt or feel unsafe, call 911," he said.

The Conyers Police Department is taking an extra step this year to warn residents about dangers while shopping.

Police Chief David Cathcart said the CPD began Nov. 1 implementing stepped-up enforcement in the city's commercial corridors.

One of the initiatives that began last year and is continuing in 2008 is the yellow ticket program. Officers patrolling busy parking ares will place yellow tickets on windshields or front door windows that serve as a friendly reminder to keep valuables inside a car stored out of sight.

If officers notice that a purse or a cell phone, for example, is in plain view, they can mark on the yellow ticket that if they saw it, a thief might, too.

The tickets include this friendly warning: "The officer leaving this information looked in your vehicle and noticed the item much the same way a thief decides which vehicles to break into. Please remember to keep valuables out of sight."

Cathcart said the yellow tickets have already been distributed in the two park-and-ride lots in Conyers - one at Church In The Now on Iris Drive near Salem Road and one at the intersection of Klondike and Iris Drive.

In addition to the yellow ticket program, the CPD has introduced a new robber awareness and prevention campaign. This initiative, headed up by Sgt. Guy Sanders with the CPD Marshal's Unit, is targeted at educating business owners to protect themselves and prevent robberies. Sanders has begun making presentations to business owners about the best ways to open and close their stores, how to make safe bank deposits and offering advice on utilizing a secure cash protection system.

Rockdale Citizen News Editor Aimee Jones contributed to this story.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.