Make the holidays merry, not scary: Tips for staying safe this season

The holidays can be a busy time for everyone – including criminals.

That’s why local law enforcement agencies, including the Kissimmee Police Department, are advising residents to stay safe this season by following some simple precautions to ensure the weeks ahead are merry, not scary.

“The same people who try to pray on people during the holidays are working year-round,” said KPD Public Information Officer Bailey Myers. “These people are just trying to find something easy to take, so it’s important to limit the opportunities they have to do so.”

Myers said KPD has already stepped up patrols around busy areas like shopping centers and residential neighborhoods to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

Below are a few steps you can take to keep those beloved gifts under the tree and not someone else’s hands.

Lock it or lose it. Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device to deter thieves.

Out of sight, peace of mind. Don’t leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight. Better yet, if you have time, drop expensive purchases off at the house before heading somewhere else.

If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it. Break down large cardboard TV and appliance boxes before putting them by the curb – they can be a red flag to criminals that you have some expensive new toys in your home. Likewise, avoid placing large displays of holiday gifts by the windows and doors of your home.

Protect your packages. It can be exciting to see those brown Amazon boxes waiting for us on our doorstep. But that same sight is also exciting for thieves. Myers suggests scheduling package delivery for a time when you know you’ll be home. You can also have them delivered to a friend’s house or to your job. If you have the money, it never hurts to install some form of video surveillance, Myers said.

Pick a public place. Online buy-sell sites like Craigslist and Offer Up are great ways to get affordable gifts for loved ones. But when it comes time to exchange money and merchandise, pick a well-lit public place. The KPD parking lot is monitored by police officers and video surveillance 24 hours a day and serves as a great safe exchange spot. In 2016, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office also created three brightly-lit, well-marked Safe Exchange Zones in the parking lots of its three office locations.

Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels. Don’t put them down or on top of the car in order to open the door. When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.

Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes. Keep the garage door closed if you’re stepping away for a few minutes.