From Sheriff Larry Ashley: Tis the Season, but Be Careful!

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Sheriff AshleyBeing jolly is hopefully a big part of your holiday season as you celebrate family time and the season of giving. We hope the happiness flows for you during the holidays but we have to be just a touch “Grinchlike” and remind you that unfortunately this is also the season for burglaries, porch pirates, and other crimes of opportunity!

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office hopes a happy holiday season is in store for all our residents and that’s why we want to share some tips to increase the odds in your favor!
One of our biggest crime issues countywide is car burglaries and the vast majority involve unlocked cars. With holiday shopping – and any time for that matter, it’s imperative that you hide your valuables, lock your doors, and take your keys! You also want to be careful about getting overloaded with your purchases inside stores and setting down one of your bags for “just a moment.” Distracted shoppers are a typical target of thieves. Another important tip is when at the grocery store running down those turkeys or cans of pumpkin, make sure your purse or wallet is safely secured and kept close at all times. These small steps can go a long way to keep criminals from taking possession of your cash or purchases. In fact, we recommend you not carry large amounts of cash or fistfuls of credit cards.

Another crime that takes off each holiday season is the proliferation of porch pirates – the thieves who sneak around and steal delivered packages off your doorstep. Many of our residents have been investing in surveillance video systems which is a solid potential deterrent.

Here are some Porch Pirate prevention tips from Forbes magazine to ponder:
– Ship to an Amazon Locker or FedEx Office.
– Send the packages to your work address or a friend you know will be home.
– Install an outdoor security camera. Many systems will send real-time alerts to your smartphone when the motion detector senses movement.
– Keep your property well lit. Sometimes those porch pirates will wait until dark before they do the evil deeds. Keep your sidewalk and porch nice and bright.
= Make it look like you are home. This is good common sense, regardless of whether or not you’re expecting a package. Lights going on and off inside a home will help keep burglars from not only stealing what’s sitting on your porch, but also from breaking into your home.

Overall, staying vigilant and not getting rattled and rushed are key components to keeping safety a top priority during the hectic holidays. Slow down and take time to think about shopping safety both in stores and online, to take the steps necessary to try to avoid being an easy target for burglars or thieves, and also to avoid the stresses of the often excessive demands of the season.

We all are aware those stresses can sometimes spill over onto our roadways as we rush around on holiday errands. We remind everyone to slow down and practice patience on the highway. Since the holidays are also a time of revelry for many, always remember that drinking and driving is not worth the risk and is easily avoided by simply planning ahead. And of course distracted driving, which is a year-round safety issue, is on the rise during the holidays as drivers struggle to manage all the missions on their calendars.

We are in the public safety business and so our sincere wish in sharing these tips is that everyone savor the blessings of the season and slow down to enjoy your family, friends, church, and community. Just taking the time to keep safety in mind can make all the difference towards ensuring you have happy relaxing memories to cherish!
Have a joyous season all!