LA PLATA, Md.—Charles County Sheriff Rex W. Coffey announced that his agency will begin operating under its Holiday Safety Plan starting Friday, November 23. The plan increases patrols in shopping centers and neighborhoods to prevent crime and help keep citizens safe.
"See and be seen - that's the core of our Holiday Safety Plan," said Sheriff Coffey. "Increasing the number of officers we have on the road prevents crime, ensures a fast response if a crimes does occur and helps make the good people of our county feel safe."
The Sheriff's plan ensures an increased police presence each evening, when most people will be out shopping. "Officers will be in marked patrol cars, unmarked cars, on bikes, and on foot. We want to cover as much ground as possible," said Sheriff Coffey. "In addition, we are deploying officers who are normally assigned to administrative duties to help patrol during this very busy time."
High school students in the Criminal Justice Program and members of Explorers Post 1658 will also help out by participating in their annual Detect and Deter program. The students, who will be in uniforms, will help canvass parking lots at shopping centers where they will pass out important information about crime prevention and take note of cars in which valuables were observed in plain view. A notice of the observation will be sent to the registered car owner to remind them of the importance of keeping valuables hidden and out of sight.
The Sheriff's Office is also asking citizens to operate under their own Holiday Safety Plan - one that emphasizes the importance of taking personal safety precautions and reporting suspicious activity. Sheriff Coffey strongly encourages citizens to remember the "See Something - Say Something" rule: Whenever you see suspicious activity, call police immediately and an officer will respond to investigate.
And, 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:
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- 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, http://www.give.org. 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.
-- 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.
-- 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.