Baltimore County police offer holiday crime prevention tips

A Towson Town Center mall security officer patrols the parking lot during the holiday season.

The Baltimore County Police Department is asking residents to stay alert during the bustle of the holiday season.

In a list of crime prevention tips, Police Chief Jim Johnson urged people to scan the immediate area around them and not to assume a place is safe and secure just because other people are around.


People should park in well-lit areas and park close to the entrance of a mall or store, according to the list of crime prevention tips on the department's website. Shoppers shouldn't talk on a cellphone as they walk to or from a vehicle. Keys should be in-hand and only unlock the vehicle when close enough to physically open the door.

If a shopper thinks someone is following him or her, that person should cross the street, switch directions or walk into a store or restaurant, police said.


"If you are really scared, yell. Don't be embarrassed. Your safety is more important," the list of holiday safety tips said.

Police also said not to leave gifts and other merchandise in open view in a vehicle — this time of year thieves also "window shop" police said, and criminals will break into a person's car if they see valuables inside.

To help prevent theft, police suggest that shoppers only take the credit cards they will need with them when shopping, leaving the other cards at home.

When out shopping, police also suggest that people hold bags and purses close, and wallets should be carried in an inside pocket of a bag or purse, or in a front pocket.

As people consider charitable giving this holiday season, police said to be wary of unsolicited emails asking for a donation, as the messages could be a scam. Johnson also told donors to ask questions before making a donation to a charitable group, to make sure the person's donation and personal information is handled properly.

Police also suggest engraving information such as a driver's license number onto gifts such as bikes, so if the item is stolen and later recovered, police can return it to the victim. Engraving equipment is available at county police stations and library branches.

Lt. Brandon Rogers, assistant commander of the Towson precinct of the Baltimore County Police Department, said it is too early in the season to assess thefts or other incidents related to holiday decorations.

When it comes to home delivery of packages in the holiday season, Rogers said it is always good advice to request that deliveries require a signature, so boxes aren't left waiting on the doorstep for thieves. If a person is away in the day time, have the package delivered to a neighbor or to a branch of the delivery service.