By Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
Giving gifts during the holidays is an expression of love and appreciation. However, returning, exchanging and even selling presents is also a common practice in the months following the holiday season.
Whether you drive to the store to return an item or sell it online, here are some ways you can stay safe while getting rid of those unwanted gifts or making new purchases.
Shopping in Stores:
• Park in a well-lit, public area when possible and become familiar with your surroundings before walking inside.
• Always lock your car doors. Even if you won’t be in the store long, it only takes seconds for a criminal to open a door, take something inside, or steal your vehicle.
• Vehicles are easy targets because they often contain valuable items like laptops, recent store purchases, firearms, purses and cell phones. Place valuables in the trunk before you park in public so they are not visible to burglars.
• If your vehicle doesn’t have an alarm, consider purchasing one. The noise alone is often enough to scare away inexperienced criminals.
• Once you leave the store, have your car keys in hand, ready to use, so that you can put any valuables in the trunk and enter your vehicle quickly.
• If you are buying or selling something online, meet the potential buyer or seller in a public location, like the parking lot of a police department or the sheriff’s office.
• Meet the buyer or seller during the day or in a well-lit area at night. As an extra precaution, take a person with you so you are not alone.
• Do not go through with the transaction if the communication with the buyer or seller seems suspicious or you do not feel safe completing it.
• Ask for identification. If the individual is lying about their identity, they will most likely not continue communication or complete the meetup. In the event the transaction goes wrong, you will have their information to report to law enforcement.
• “Porch pirates,” thieves who steal packages left on doorsteps, are all too common today. Use a surveillance camera to monitor the activity at your door, have packages delivered to a secure location, or schedule deliveries when you are home to ensure they make it inside your residence.
This year, make New Year’s resolutions that will protect you, your belongings, and your community. Lock your car doors regularly and take necessary precautions when making transactions or meeting with strangers.