Police in Columbia County are urging residents to be on the lookout this holiday season for several Grinches who just might steal Christmas.
"When it comes to criminal activity, the month of December typically ranks the highest," said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.
"December brings about increased seasonal shopping excursions, vacations from school, mall crowds, traffic congestion and holiday parties. Along with these activities come the opportunities for crime and victimization."
Capt. Morris said that one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is placing presents underneath a Christmas tree in plain view of a window.
"It's tradition, but we discourage that," he said. "It's an invitation to burglars looking for valuables."
Capt. Morris said that burglars also use the season's extended hours of darkness to their advantage.
To combat these seasonal risks, Capt. Morris advises residents to take the following precautions to prevent a break-in or robbery:
Do not place empty boxes on the curbside in front of your house after all the presents have been opened.
If you're going out of town, make sure all doors and windows are secure; ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house and possibly to park a car in your driveway; arrange for mail to be redirected or held by the post office; cancel all routine deliveries; turn down the ring volume on your telephone or disconnect it; consider installing automatic timing devices for lights; and never leave house keys hidden outside the house.
While out shopping, you should always park in a well-lit area; keep keys in your hand as you approach your car; check the interior of your car before you enter; keep one arm free; never carry a lot of packages; and never place too many packages in your trunk.
Georgia Insurance and Fire Commissioner John Oxendine also suggests these tips for fire safety during the holidays:
Check your Christmas tree for freshness; never place it near a fireplace, furnace vent or television; use only outdoor lights for outside decorations; always unplug lights before leaving home or going to bed; and use small lights on trees.
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