Police: ‘Harden the target’

As the holidays are upon us, ‘tis the season for an increase in crime, said the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department. Because people are shopping and buying gifts, they typically have more money and merchandise on hand than usual. Criminals know and exploit this. "Harden the target" by taking these simple steps to reduce your chances of being a victim of crime:

• Carry as little cash on you as possible. If you have the option to use credit cards, debit cards, or checks, they can be canceled if stolen and provide more protection against fraud, should they be used without authorization. They also provide an opportunity for law enforcement to pursue video surveillance and transaction information should they be used fraudulently.

• Women - keep purses closed and on your person. Do not leave them unattended in shopping carts, while in the store or loading your vehicle, with purchases, children, etc.

• Do not leave valuables, gifts, and merchandise, in your vehicle. Thieves know that there is a higher probability that there will be loot to steal from vehicles at this time of year, especially in shopping centers and malls, where people often return to their cars periodically to off-load. If you have to do so, put valuables in the trunk or under the security shade of a hatchback. In any case, always lock your car!

• Pay attention and be aware of your surroundings. Ask a friend or co-worker to watch or accompany you as you walk to your car, especially if parked in an isolated or poorly lit area. Having a friend or a loved one on the other end of a cell phone while walking to your car, so you have that connection until you are safe, is also a good idea. Keep your key fob handy — most have panic buttons that will activate the car alarm, horn, and lights.

• Keep your homes locked, well lit, and look out for your neighbors. With all the travel that occurs during the holidays, burglars and thieves will be looking for signs that you are away. Make the house look occupied as usual and do not advertise your plans to be away on Facebook. You can advise those that need to know directly.

• When feasible, consider having neighbors hold packages that are delivered by UPS, Fed Ex, or other services, rather than having them left on your porch. Thieves have been known to follow delivery trucks only to steal what was just delivered.

• Business owners and employees, can request a police escort if leaving with large amounts of money or late at night by themselves. This is a service provided by police but is contingent upon our availability.

As always, report suspicious activity immediately – call 911.

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