COVINGTON -- For most of us, the holidays evoke thoughts of shopping, Christmas carols and "visions of sugar plums." For the folks at the Covington Police Department, it usually means an increased workload as crime tends to escalate. But they're hoping this year a proactive approach to holiday crime will enable them, as well as residents, to have a very merry Christmas.
Detective D.J. Seals is in charge of the CPD's newly formed Criminal Intelligence Unit, and he has at his disposal new computers, software and applications that use the latest technology to look at history to forecast the future. With the click of a mouse, the CPD and residents can now see what crimes are happening where and when they are occurring. The goal is to prevent crimes before they occur.
As part of that effort, the CPD, in conjunction with the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce, is making a one-hour presentation titled Safety for the Holidays to members of the business community to give them information and accept their questions on how to prevent holiday crime.
"We feel it is important to have that one-on-one contact with the business owners," he said. "We always see our caseloads go up over the holidays. Usually that increase is in entering autos, thefts of all types, shoplifting of all types and flim-flam. I'll probably have a list of the top 10 things to look out for during Thanksgiving and Christmas."
But, he emphasized, that the training would not only be informational, but interactive.
"We know that everybody who attends is there because they have concerns, and we want to know about that," he said.
He said among the topics would be crimes that he calls "preventables."
For instance, the problem of entering autos and why one car is targeted and another one not.
"Let's say there are two identical cars sitting next to each other in a parking lot. Both are locked up tight," he said. "The thief looks in one and sees nothing. Maybe there's something in there, maybe under the seat or glove compartment, but he doesn't see anything."
"He looks in the other car and immediately sees something he can sell. He's gonna hit that vehicle," Seals said.
The reason is that the thief would rather go after a sure thing. Therefore, the solution is to take an extra minute to keep valuables out of sight. Your car may still be broken into, but it reduces the odds.
For the business owner, Seals said store owners should caution their employees about leaving their personal valuables where thieves can reach them.
"Say you're in a smaller store, working at a counter, and you may put your cell phone down next to you. Many times the thieves work in pairs when they go into a business. One of them will say, 'Can you help me with something back here,' and as a good clerk, you'll make sure that cash register is locked and then go to the back and help. Meanwhile, that friend, who may not even appear to be a friend, is now behind the counter grabbing purses, wallets, cell phones, what have you."
Seals said thieves have learned to not take the cash register because they'll be quickly discovered. With personal property, they have time to be long gone before the theft is discovered.
"We've seen this kind of personal property theft increase, and I can tell you right now, with all things being equal, we'll see that this year at least five times." he said.
Another thing Seals said he would like for residents and business owners to realize is they should never hesitate to call law enforcement.
"The one thing I want everybody to remember this holiday season is if you think you see something that's not quite right or you think something's about to go down or something's odd, we would love to have a phone call before it happens," he said. "People think all the time, but they haven't done anything yet. Well, that's great because that's when we want to get them because after they've done it, they're gone. We may be able to prevent a crime happening to another citizen, to you, to a family member. Prevent it before it starts."
Seals said he invites anyone in the community to go to www.covingtonpolice.com and become familiar with the new information available under the "crime reports" tab.
"Homeowners or business owners can put their address in and see the crimes that have been happening around their neighborhood," he said, adding they can look for crimes by categories, see maps of where the crimes are occurring, call up a new and improved sex offenders list, get case numbers so an incident report can be requested and more.
The Safety for the Holidays seminars will be held at The Center, 2103 Washington St. at 9 and 11 a.m. Monday and Dec. 6. Call the chamber at 770-786-7510 for more information.