As the busy holiday season draws closer, Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol wants to pass along 12 Christmas safety tips to protect those who are out and about getting shopping and errands done.
It extends beyond just the typical, "drive safely and put your bags in your trunk when you shop."
Maciol is offereing common sense guidelines that could help keep you and your family and your friends safe this Christmas season.
The holidays are a great time to get to know your neighbors
If you have not already done so, the holiday season is a great time to get to know your neighbors. This includes the people who live next door, across the street and over the back
fence. Neighbors watching out for neighbors help keep an eye out for suspicious activity and make communities safer.
Lock your vehicle and hide valuables, preferably in the trunk or locked compartment. Before sunrise and after sunset, park and walk in well-lit areas and carry keys in your hand. Stay alert to your surroundings and take a moment to glance around for possible suspicious persons, vehicles, and/or situations. Prior to getting into your vehicle take a look inside and around before entering.
When in crowded places, be alert for potential thieves. Don’t overload yourself with packages. Maintain visibility and mobility to avoid potential threats. Be wary of strangers approaching you for any reason. The holiday season is notorious for “con-artists” who may attempt to distract you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. When possible, avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carrying large amounts of valuables. Never leave personal belongings unattended. As an added precaution, make sure you have a record of all your credit card numbers in a secure place at home.
Recognize that there is safety in numbers and arrange to shop with friends and relatives instead of going out alone. Make sure everyone remains vigilant and looks out for each other.
When shopping with young children, keep a close eye on them at all times. Consider coaching them to go to a store clerk or security guard if they become separated and be sure they know their first and last name so they can advise someone who they are. Give children a contact phone number that they can carry on their person in case they do become lost.
Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular. The Internet does have risks so it is important to take steps to protect yourself when shopping online. The National Cyber Security Alliance recommends that you make sure you have a security suite (firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware) installed and updated with the most current information before shopping online. Also, keep your operating system and Web browser up-to-date. Before you enter your personal and financial information for an online transaction, look for signs that the site is secure. This includes a closed padlock on your Web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured. Never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase.
Be extra cautious about locking windows, sliders, and doors when leaving for any length of time. We suggest keeping all entrance points into your house secured while you’re at home as well. Set indoor and outdoor lights on timers and think about doing the same with a television or radio to make it appear as if someone is home. Never keep gifts or valuable objects in plain view from any window. Close blinds, shutters, drapes, and curtains because if a burglar can see those items, they may attempt to take them from you. If a person knocks at your door and you don’t recognize them, don’t feel obligated to open your door. Teach your children that by no means will they open the door to anyone prior to your knowledge and authorization.
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Inform someone who’s trustworthy where you will be and when you might be expected back to your residence. Ask a neighbor or other dependable persons to watch your house and retrieve your newspapers and mail if possible.
In Oneida County, severe winter weather is a possibility. Stay tuned to weather conditions. Anticipate inclement weather and plan accordingly. Carry a cell phone, keep sufficient gas in the tank and always use extreme caution driving.
Many people celebrate the season by attending holiday parties with family and friends. Enjoy these gatherings responsibly so this time of joy does not become a time of tragedy. Watch how much you drink. Don’t drink and drive, get a ride with someone who is sober. The Sheriff’s Office recommends you prearrange transportation if you plan on consuming alcoholic beverages - always have a plan.