Like Santa with his gifts, local police departments were generous in giving tips to residents who want to celebrate the holidays safely. Keego Harbor Police Chief Kenneth Hurst and Orchard Lake Police Chief Joe George said some of the dangers around Christmastime could be avoided by taking the following precautions:
Pay attention while shopping: Hurst said shoppers walking to their vehicles should keep a close eye on who is standing around, staring at them or following from behind in the parking lot.
George recommended strength in numbers. “If you’re leaving a mall, what I suggest you do is look around and leave with other people,” he said. “Don’t leave alone. If you see a problem, go back to the store and call security.”
He also recommended that shoppers stay alert and not lose sight of their purses or wallets — even for a moment. Also, he advised debit card users to be careful while using them.
“Make sure when you punch in your code number that it’s not visible to someone standing around you,” he said.
Learn to lock it: Hurst said homeowners should first do the obvious and lock all their doors and windows before leaving. The same applies for vehicles, he said.
“Keep your cars locked,” he said. “It’s not going to stop the pure thief, but it’s going to keep the dishonest people honest.”
George said homeowners should keep curtains closed and perhaps leave on some lights while away. To avoid auto break-ins, George reminded shoppers to keep any presents out of sight and don’t leave a car that is exposing anything valuable.
“People are out there carhopping,” he said. “They drive around usually 1-4 in the morning, and they’re looking in cars.”
Get to know the neighbors: If you know your neighbors well, look out for one another and report any suspicious people or vehicles to the police, Hurst said. Vacationers should call a trustworthy individual to keep an eye on a vacant home, or they may call police to give a heads up.
“At least in Keego, we do house checks if you’re going to go away for a period of time,” he said. “If you’ve got neighbors that watch over you, and you watch over them, it’s the best thing in the world.”
Buy a home security system: Ultimately, it’s difficult to stop someone from breaking into a home if a burglar is determined. However, Hurst said it’s hard to beat a good alarm or surveillance camera system.
“People invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into their house. They won’t invest a couple thousand dollars into a security system. It’s crazy,” he said.
Get armed: Adults with no felony convictions who comply with the law may learn to properly use a gun for self-defense and get a concealed carry permit, Hurst said.
“I carry a gun at all times. I’m a cop,” he said. “Every decent citizen, if they want to carry a weapon, I don’t have a problem with that. … Even if you never use it — I hope you never have to use it — but it’s there.”
Get a designated driver: Holiday partiers who plan to drink should arrange a designated driver in advance, hail a taxi cab or use some other sort of transportation service to ride home safely, instead of getting behind the wheel. “It’s going to be worth 25 to 50 bucks to get a ride, compared to the cost if you don’t,” George said.
Watch out for fire hazards: Live Christmas trees should be watered to make sure they don’t get dry enough to pose a fire risk, George said. He also recommended leaving trees unlit while away from the home and snuffing out candles before going to bed.
“When you look at your house, think safety and go from there,” he said.
To reach the Keego Harbor Police Department, call (248) 682-1930. The Orchard Lake Police Department can be reached at (248) 682-2400.
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