Editorial: Don't be a victim of holiday crime

Upticks in property crime, sadly, tend to go hand-in-hand with the Christmas shopping season. Shoplifting, theft from vehicles and robberies tend to go up during the month of December, some believe tied to financial struggles and the pressures of gift-giving during the holidays.

Westminster Police, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police announced a joint effort Holiday Crime Prevention Patrol Initiative, which begins Dec. 1, increasing patrols in commercial areas along Main Street and the Md. 140 corridor in Westminster.


The hope is that a more visible police presence will make crooks think twice before ruining someone’s holiday, but cops can’t be everywhere at once.

Most of these types of crimes are crimes of opportunity, and there are some steps everyone can take to help themselves from becoming a victim.

Let’s start with the obvious: Lock your car doors, especially if you have gifts in the vehicle. It still amazes us how often police report thefts from vehicles where doors are left unlocked. You should lock up your car doors all the time, even when parked in your own driveway, but especially so in parking lots of the mall or retail stores during the holidays. Try to park in well-lit areas as well.

Along those same lines, if you’re spending the day shopping and stockpiling gifts, don’t leave them in plain sight in the backseat of your vehicle while you bounce from store to store. Clear some space in your trunk before you head out shopping and keep as many of your gifts there and out-of-sight as possible. If you think you might be buying an oversized item, like a television, that might need to go in your back seat, consider bringing a blanket or sheet to cover it up while you do the rest of your shopping, or try to plan to make large, expensive items your last purchase before heading home.

Once you get home, even though your vehicle might make a good hiding place, it’s still best to take gifts inside.

Of course, with so much holiday shopping being done online these days, perhaps these aren’t the problems you’re faced with. Instead, the concern might be packages delivered to your home that sit on your front porch for hours before you get home from work.

Instead of having packages delivered to your home address, consider having them shipped to your office if you can. Not only will you know your order is safe and secure, but you also don’t have to worry about it potentially being ruined by winter weather or the kiddos reading the labels before you get home. If you can’t have it shipped to your house, maybe a relative or neighbor who is home during the day would be willing to hold it until you get home.

We’re glad police are increasing visibility to deter seasonal crime, but be sure to take steps yourself to help prevent being a victim and ensure a happy holiday.