Avoid being a holiday statistic

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2002

It’s the season to be jolly while decorating with mistletoe and holly, ’tis also the season when crooked predators take advantage of our good cheer and concentration on gift lists and other important preparations for the festive season.

Suffolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson and his staff noted that this is the time of year when people become careless and vulnerable to theft and holiday crime.

&uot;We can never be too careful, too prepared or too aware of what’s happening around us,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;We want every person in the city of Suffolk to have a wonderful holiday with fond memories of the day we thank God for all our blessings.

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&uot;We certainly do not want this special day marred by memories of becoming a crime statistic. Because of that, my staff and I have come up with a flyer, &uot;December Crime Prevention Tips,&uot; filled with numerous bits of information that could save people a lot of grief and possible financial setbacks.&uot;

The flyer includes items like; &uot;if you must use an ATM, choose one that is located inside a mall or other well-lighted location. And by all means, protect those PIN numbers by shielding the keypad when you are keying it into the ATM machine.&uot;

The Commonwealth’s attorney added that a receipt from an ATM, nor carbons from credit cards, should never be thrown into a wastebasket where you picked up cash.

Take them home and, if not needed, tear into bits or shred before tossing into trash.

While Ferguson’s team of prosecutors offers good advice, the Suffolk Police Department is also concerned that everyone come through the holidays with nothing other than memories of a wonderful turkey dinner and beautiful children around a table with grandparents and others who know what a gift children are.

Police have just initiated the &uot;Downtown Business Watch Program&uot; to protect shoppers and to help business owners/managers prevent thefts and other crimes in their stores.

This special program was introduced Tuesday at a meeting in which Police Officers Jonah Cravey, Tyson Wilde, and Kevin Dodson introduced the program they developed as a way to form a partnership between police and the business people of the city. Several other officers spoke at the meeting, each introducing specific aspects of the program.

Suffolk Police Department’s Community Services Division has been working for some time on presenting programs like &uot;Neighborhood Watch&uot; to members of the community and many civic leagues, churches and some businesses when invited.

Recently, Officers John Cooke and Jay Jackson stopped by the offices of the Suffolk News-Herald to present a program on &uot;personal safety.&uot; Employees and Publisher Andy Prutsok listened with great interest to the officers as they offered scenarios of crime incidents.

As. Cooke began the demonstrations, he &uot;volunteered&uot; News-Herald Circulation District Manager Carrie Gabrielosu to show the wrong way a woman should carry her purse while shopping.

Of course, Gabrielosu, expecting the officer to grab her purse, wasn’t about to relinquish her bag but the humorous demonstration was still understood by all. As Cooke said, it’s best not to carry a purse into the stores.

&uot;Only take what you know you’ll need,&uot; he said. &uot;Take your cash, or credit card, or debit card, but do not take them all. That way, you only have one item to watch over and you can keep it safely tucked into a pocket and you lessen your chances of being victimized. If you do carry your purse, make sure the strap is around your shoulder and neck, not dangling from your arm where it can easily be grabbed.&uot;

Jackson also advised that shoppers never approach their vehicles without looking around for suspicious persons loitering around the parking lot. He said it’s most important to stay alert and aware of surroundings at all times.

&uot;Also, stay alert while going into public restrooms and keep your keys in your pocket,&uot; he said. &uot;Park as close to the store as possible, especially if you’re going to an ATM. And when leaving the car, make note of the parking location so you don’t have to search the area for it. The longer you remain outside the car, the more chance to become a victim.

&uot;And, have your keys in your hand as you leave the store and be ready to enter the car and lock it quickly,&uot; said Jackson. &uot;Do not leave valuables and gift purchases inside the car where they’re visible, but locked inside the trunk. Packages left in sight of anyone near your car can tempt someone into breaking into the vehicle and stealing everything you purchased.&uot;

Jackson added that for extra precaution, women especially should go shopping in pairs or groups.

For more information on the Downtown Business Watch, the Neighborhood Crime Watch, or personal safety while shopping, call the Suffolk Police Department’s Community Services Division at 923-2355.

The officers are available, by appointment, to speak with anyone interested in any of the programs. They also have plenty of printed information available to all free of charge.