LOGAN, W.Va. — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and in Logan County that means something else to think about besides carols, sales in stores and sending out Christmas cards.
“Crime usually goes up this time of the year,” said West Logan Police Chief Robert J. Ward recently. “I am hoping that this year it will be different but if the past decade is any indication we will see a great increase in crimes of opportunity during the Holiday Season from the end of Thanksgiving to Christmas day. Criminals are like anybody else… they have families and they want to give them gifts for the holidays… The difference is that many of them either refuse to work or are so knocked out on recreational drugs that they cannot hold down a job and this is where you come in.”
From purse snatching incidents to burglaries to credit card fraud this is the time of the year when many people are thinking “Goodwill Toward Men” and not “safety and security” and when they slip up it can lead to a Blue Christmas indeed when they get taken.
“What you have to remember is that your typical criminal is not some kind of mastermind — far from it. He or she is just looking for an easy score, not a challenge, and the more you can do to make it difficult for them to rip you off the better your chances are that they will look for victims elsewhere.
High tech alarm systems can get expensive but common sense can help you to prevent becoming a crime victim for Christmas, Ward noted, adding there are many simple things a person can do to deter criminals.
— Don’t get so loaded down with packages you cannot see. Pay attention to your surroundings and if you are out and about shopping don’t just lock your purchases in the car, drape them with blankets or newspapers if need be to keep them out of sight.
— Park in well-lit areas even if it is further from the opening of a store. Keep your vehicle locked up.
— Don’t carry a lot of cash on your person. Just carry enough for your purchases or better yet use a credit card. If your wallet gets stolen most credit card companies will not hold you accountable for more than $50 in charges. Your card can also be tracked via point of purchase.
— Men should carry their wallets in their front pants pocket or an inside coat pocket to make it harder on thieves. Women should carry their money or cards on their person instead of in purses which are easier to snatch. One year a local woman was dragged by an automobile when a purse snatcher grabbed her bag and she could not let go. You can also carry a decoy wallet that has only a few dollars and some useless items for muggers. If mugged, give that wallet to the thief and run away, keeping the real McCoy on your person. It is better to lose an old wallet with $3 inside than to get hurt or lose all your payday money and your identification.
— Destroy or shred any garbage that has credit card numbers, social security numbers or identification in it that a thief might wish to get ahold of before you throw it out.
— Keep your cell phone in your pocket and do not let it distract you. Talking on the phone, texting or doing Facebook updates is a good way to lose track of your surroundings and possibly not see a pickpocket or mugger coming your way.
— At home do not leave presents out in plain view. Keep doors locked even when you are at home.
— When leaving, do not turn off the television or the lights — leave them on. The more your home looks occupied the more likely a burglar is to pick a residence that looks like nobody is home.
— If you do not own a dog get a large dog bowl and scuff it up and put food in it outside to deter a burglar.
— Keep shrubbery trimmed that is close to windows and garages so that thieves do not have a way to lurk near your home and scout you out for a crime.
Ward said that many local law enforcement agencies will increase patrols this time of the year, “but by being aware and taking precautions to prevent an attempt against your person or your property you can make sure that somebody else has a Blue Christmas instead of you.”
J.D. Charles is a freelance writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner.