Howard County police announced Monday that it will increase its presence around shopping malls, neighborhoods and on the roadways this holiday season.
The increased police presence, which will begin on Thanksgiving and continue through New Year's Day, is aimed at deterring robberies, thefts, shoplifting and other crimes associated with the holiday season.
Officers will be increasing patrols in cars, on foot and on bikes in both plainclothes and uniforms. Police also will be riding Howard Transit buses in uniformed and plainclothes.
In addition, police released the following safety tips for the holidays:
SAFE SHOPPING: Residents are advised to be more careful, prepared and alert. McGruff the Crime Dog will be visiting local shopping centers through December to share crime-prevention messages, including:
- When shopping, travel with a group or in pairs, and schedule shopping trips during the day.
- Stay alert, especially when carrying packages or walking on a parking lot or in a garage.
- Avoid carrying too many packages, and leave one hand free to access keys or a phone quickly.
- Park in a well-lighted parking space, and select an area where there are other cars and foot traffic.
- Don’t leave cell phones, purses or other valuables in a parked car, especially in plain view.
- When loading packages into the car, use the trunk instead of the back seat, or make an extra trip home in between shopping trips to unload packages.
- Beware of strangers approaching you. If you feel uncomfortable, walk in another direction. If possible, walk back toward the store or toward another person.
- If shopping online, order only from reputable retailers that offer secure transactions.
- When the holidays are over, don’t put boxes for electronics or valuables in plain view on recycling day. Collapse boxes, and put them in your recycling cart or bind them with rope or tape to prevent attracting a burglar.
SAFE DRIVING: Officers will aggressively enforce traffic laws with attention to drunken and drugged driving, speeding, parking violations and seatbelt and child safety seat laws. There also will be an emphasis on enforcing underage drinking laws. According to the State Highway Administration, an average of five people are killed in Maryland between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in an impaired-driving crash.
PREVENTING PACKAGE THEFTS: Police also are focused on preventing package thefts, as deliveries of online purchases increase this time of year. While there have been no reports yet this season, the department is asking residents to review their holiday purchases and shipments to determine if any packages are missing.
If you have shipped a gift to a family member, confirm with the recipient that it has arrived. If the delivery company reports that the package was delivered, but you believe it may have been stolen, take the following steps:
- Check the back or side door, or with neighbors to see if the delivery was left at another location.
- Call the delivery company to confirm it was delivered. If so, report the incident to police at 410-313-2200.
- To prevent thefts, police encourage residents to follow these tips:
- Track shipments, and try to be home when they are scheduled to arrive.
- If you won’t be home, have the shipment delivered to your work, if possible, or ask the delivery company to leave the package in a discreet location, such as a back door.
- Ask a neighbor to take the package inside until you get home.
- Be aware of suspicious people and vehicles. If you notice suspicious behavior, call 911 immediately.
- Make note of any vehicle’s make, model, tag number and direction of travel.