Public Safety

Crime Prevention Tips for the Holiday Season

Burglar creeping around a home with a decorated Christmas tree. Image Credit: Shutterstock
Always lock your doors and windows at home to help prevent a burglary.

Everyone looks forward to making new, wonderful memories during the holiday season, but for anyone who has ever been a victim of a crime, it could quickly turn into a year they would rather forget.

The San Diego County District Attorney and Sheriff’s Department remind residents to take precautions to avoid becoming a theft victim whether online, in malls or store parking lots, or at home. Here are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be targeted in any of those situations.

Online

Fraud investigators with the District Attorney’s Office recommend the following:

  • Use one credit card for all online purchases to avoid exposing other cards.
  • Do NOT click on links from unsolicited emails. Go to the website instead.
  • Make sure the website is legitimate and secure. Check for the lock icon in the address bar, and make sure the address begins with https.
  • Make sure the browser, anti-virus and malware protection software are updated on the computer you are using.
  • Avoid using a public computer. Shop at home on a secured network.
  • Avoid using open Wi-Fi for financial transactions. Password protect your Wi-Fi and use a firewall.
  • Create a unique password for every online account. Use at least eight characters and a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Update your passwords frequently.
  • Do not trust sellers who ask you to pay with a wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.
  • Lock your smartphones and tablets with a password or code feature to prevent thieves from stealing and using them to make purchases.
  • Only download apps from a trusted app store or online platform such as Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.
  • Use a security app to protect your smartphone or tablet device against malicious apps and malware.
  • Monitor your bank statements for unauthorized transactions.

At Stores

If shopping in malls or stores, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department offer these tips:

  • Shop during the day when possible and shop with a friend.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t overload your arms with packages and bags while shopping.
  • Park in a well-lit area.
  • Have your keys out and ready when approaching your car.
  • Be aware of how you carry your purse or wallet. Would it be easy for someone to take it?
  • When out at the malls and stores shopping, lock your car doors and take valuables with you.
  • When storing items purchased at the stores, place them out of sight. The best place is in a locked trunk.
  • If you absolutely must drop purchases off at your car and continue shopping, consider moving your car to another parking spot in case there are criminal spotters who might have seen you loading up your car with bags. This extra step could make a criminal think you are leaving.

Package delivery

Now that you’ve shopped, there are more precautions to take at home.

For those who ordered online, schedule package deliveries when you are going to be home, but if it is not possible, consider the following suggestions:

  • Leave special instructions to the delivery person to put the package in a backyard, or somewhere where it’s not visible from the street.
  • Require that the delivery driver get a signature for the package (from a trusted neighbor).
  • Track the package.
  • Sign up for email or text message alerts with estimated delivery times.
  • Have USPS, Amazon, FedEx or UPS hold your package at their pick-up facility so you can pick it up in person at your convenience.
  • If purchasing from a large retailer, request that your package be delivered to a local branch or store so you can pick it up in person.
  • Get to know your carriers.  If there’s been a problem of thefts in the past, tell them about it.
  • Insure your packages.
  • Ask a neighbor or retired relative (who is home) if they will accept your package for you at their home.
  • Have the package delivered to your workplace if it is permitted.
  • Buy a locking mailbox big enough for packages.
  • Consider installing a camera security system that photographs people who come to your door and allows you to communicate with them without opening the door or being home.

At home

And lastly, once the gifts are safely inside your home, they may not stay safe if a thief takes notice of valuable items under your tree.

  • Always lock your doors and windows especially at night and when you’re away.
  • Avoid opening doors to strangers.
  • Place gifts where they cannot be seen from outside your home.
  • After opening presents, don’t pile up empty gift boxes outside. This gives burglars a hint of expensive items in your home. Instead, keep boxes inside until the night before your garbage pickup.
  • If you see someone casing your neighborhood, report suspicious activity to the Sheriff’s non-emergency line at (858) 565-5200.
Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact