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Newton County Sheriff's Office offers holiday safety tips

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Sheriff's Office is urging citizens to take precautions and follow safety guidelines to prevent becoming a victim of crime during the holiday season.

Unfortunately, burglaries are common in Newton County throughout the year and authorities say the best deterrent is to be alert and call 911 immediately when suspicious activity is observed.

"Every day we answer calls to burglaries. We haven't had a huge increase during the holidays. We've had 13 this week," said NCSO spokesman Lt. Keith Crum on Wednesday. "Neighbors looking after neighbors is the biggest deterrent."

Crum said on Tuesday a burglary in progress call came in from Snapfinger Lane which resulted in the arrest of two of the tree perpetrators. It happened around noon and Crum said daylight burglaries are very common.

"They'll knock on the front door, got to the back door and knock and then they're pretty sure no one's at home. Then they'll force entry." he said.

Crum said the NCSO is offering the following tips which can help keep citizens safe during the holidays.

WHILE SHOPPING

-- Shop with a friend or family member as there is safety in numbers.

-- Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you.

-- Do not carry large amounts of cash.

-- Keep your eyes on purchases you have already made as bags can easily be switched or stolen. And don't overburden yourself with carrying too many packages. Use the store's package pick-up when possible.

-- Have your keys ready in hand before leaving a store so you're not searching for them in a parking lot.

-- Try not to be in a store at closing time as this is when fewer people are present and predators often strike.

-- Avoid isolated ATM machines. Get your cash during daylight hours and preferably use a drive-up machine.

IN THE PARKING LOT

-- Park in a high-visibility location and check for lighting in case you leave after dark.

-- Prior to arriving at the shopping center, lock all valuables and other packages in the trunk of your car.

-- Don't leave the store alone. Wait until you see others leaving.

-- If you feel uncomfortable, ask security to escort you to your vehicle.

-- Walk briskly, confidently and directly through the parking lot. Be cautious of people handing out flyers or asking questions.

-- Watch for people who may be following you. This can occur inside and out. If you suspect someone is following you, notify security.

AT HOME

-- Don't display gifts beneath the Christmas tree that can be seen from windows or doors.

-- Before traveling, contact the Newton County Sheriff's Office and fill out an "extra patrol" form. Patrol deputies will ride by your home for a safety check when time allows.

-- If you go out for the evening, turn on lights and even a radio/television so the house appears occupied.

-- Avoid leaving boxes from purchases (especially valuable electronics such as TVs, DVD players, computers, etc.) out on the curb for trash pick-up. The boxes can be placed in a sealed, non-clear garbage bag.

-- Be wary of strangers soliciting charitable donations. Do not open your door to strangers. They may take advantage of people's generosity during the holidays.

-- Immediately after the holidays, record new serial numbers along with make and model of new gifts.