Charles Sheriff's Office Begins Holiday Patrols - Southern Maryland Headline News

Charles Sheriff's Office Begins Holiday Patrols

LA PLATA, Md. (Nov. 19, 2009) — The shopping frenzy that begins the Friday after Thanksgiving — Black Friday — usually signals the start of the Christmas season but already commercials are airing and store displays have been revealed. In keeping with the season’s early start, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 1 activated its Holiday Safety Plan, which focuses an increased police presence in shopping centers and neighborhoods.

“Our plan is very simple: make sure we’re seen,” said Sheriff Rex Coffey. “The best way to prevent crime, make the good people of our county feel safe and ensure a fast response when crimes do occur is to have plenty of officers on the streets. It’s a strategy that has helped us manage crime for years but we know we have to step it up during the busiest hours of the holiday season.”

The Sheriff’s plan ensures an increased police presence each evening. Although some detectives will operate covertly in plain clothes and unmarked cars in an attempt to identify possible robbery suspects, the plan primarily increases the uniformed police presence. The number of patrol officers will increase by about 15 per night until the operation concludes New Year’s Day. The added officers are part of specialty units such as the tactical response squad, community policing and the Command Staff, who have all adjusted their schedules to provide the boost to patrol. The officers will patrol both commercial and residential areas in patrol cars and on foot.

In addition to increasing police presence, the Sheriff’s Office has created banners that will be displayed in local businesses to raise awareness of the office’s strong stance against crime and to discourage criminals from taking advantage of holiday shoppers. The posters display crime prevention messages and identify Charles County as a “No Tolerance Crime Zone.”

High school students in the Criminal Justice Program and members of Explorers Post 1658 will also aid in the holiday crime prevention plan by participating in their annual Detect and Deter program. Both uniformed groups canvass parking lots of malls and shopping centers throughout the holiday season in search of vehicles that could potentially be targeted by thieves because shopping bags, gifts, cell phones and other valuables are in plain view. They place a friendly notice on the windshield of the vehicles to remind drivers of the consequences they could face and offer crime prevention information.

Finally, the Sheriff’s Office is offering the following safety tips and is asking citizens to keep these tips in mind during the holidays and to share them with family and friends:

When Shopping:

-- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
-- Park in a well-lighted space and be sure to lock the car and close the windows.
-- Hide shopping bags, gifts and other valuables in the trunk.
-- Don’t overburden yourself with packages. Make several trips to the car if necessary.
-- Keep purses close to your body and keep wallets in a front pants pocket.
-- Never carry large amounts of cash or count cash where others can see you.
-- Make sure any children you may be shopping with know to go to a store clerk or security guard if you are separated.

When Traveling:

-- Get an automatic timer for your lights.
-- Have mail and newspaper delivery stopped so it won’t pile up.
-- Have a trusted friend or neighbor keep an eye on your house, shovel snow and park in your driveway from time to time.

At Home:

-- When placing the garbage out for pickup, conceal boxes that contained expensive items — otherwise, you could be advertising what you have for burglars.
-- If you answer the door for a stranger who is seeking charitable donations, ask for the person’s identification and how the funds will be used. If you are not satisfied, you are not obligated to give. Learn more about charitable organizations from the Better Business Bureau’s Web site, Don’t fee obligated to answer the door if doing so makes you uncomfortable.
-- Take the opportunity to create or update your home inventory. Take photos or make videos of items, including descriptions and serial numbers.

Vehicle Safety:

-- Always keep windows up and doors locked, even at home.
-- Don’t leave your vehicle running to let it warm up. Vehicle thieves see this as an easy opportunity to steal a vehicle.

For Businesses:

-- Remind employees to alert staff and security of unusual behaviors.
-- Start and participate in a “Business Watch” program.
-- Watch for people hanging around before or after closing time.
-- Ensure employees are seen and can see at all times.
-- Keep window decorations below waist height and/or above head height.
-- Control the height of shelving units and displays.
-- Improve the lighting in shadowed areas.
-- Keep minimal cash on hand at each register.
-- Make frequent pickup/money drops during the busiest hours.
-- Place all money in a safe or locked storage cabinet until you are ready to count it out.
-- Never count cash in front of others.
-- Never make a bank drop after dark.
-- Alternate times and routes to the bank.
-- Don’t carry a bank bag in the open — conceal it in a shopping or grocery bag.
-- Take someone with you to the bank.

Businesses should be sure all their surveillance equipment is always functioning properly because, in the event a robbery or other crime occurs, video provides crucial evidence. Also, be sure your tapes are changed daily and that they are replaced every 30 days. It would also help to place height markers on all doors.

The Sheriff’s Office also reminds citizens that if they observe any suspicious activity to report it immediately by calling the La Plata District Station at 301-932-2222, the Waldorf District Station at 301-932-7777 or the Indian Head District Station at 301-743-2222. In an emergency, dial 9-1-1. For more information about crime prevention programs, contact the Crime Prevention Unit at 301-609-3080 or visit the Sheriff’s Office’s Web site,

Source: Charles County Sheriff's Office

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