Club gets tips on avoiding holiday crime

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE — With the holidays right around the corner, St. John Sheriff’s Office Maj. Mike Tregre knew that the best speech to a local civic group was one that includes safety warnings for the many shopping days ahead.

Tregre was the guest speaker to the LaPlace Rotary Club recently, and said that with the holidays coming up, he hopes area residents will be especially vigilant with their homes and shopping items.

“This is a time of the year that criminals really know there are extra opportunities with people taking vacations, and all the extra shopping,” he said. “But you can do a lot of things to minimize your risk of being a victim.”

The past few years have seen St. John Sheriff Wayne Jones set up a highly visible patrol unit to monitor the busiest local shopping center areas, and Tregre said that the units will be back in full force again.

The Sheriff’s Office has an elevated tower that they set up in the Wal-Mart shopping center, and they will increase patrols throughout several other shopping areas in the region.

“I think the extra visibility around Wal-Mart is one of the best things we have done in recent years to reduce crime there,” he said.

However Tregre added that residents can do a lot of things that will also reduce their chances of becoming a victim.

Some tips while shopping are as follows:

** Women with very large purses are a higher risk since criminals view them as having “maybe your life’s savings” in there. Smaller purses seem to get snatched less often, Tregre said.

** When walking out to your car, be very aware of anyone coming towards you. Don’t be afraid to look them in the eye so they know you are watching them.

** Do not leave purses unattended in shopping carts. Tregre said that is one of the easiest ways to become a victim of theft while shopping.

** Use debit or credit cards more often. Tregre said that there has been an increase in a few employees of stores actually copying a check someone used, then giving it to someone with a good copy machine.

Special tips involving traveling are:

** When you use a luggage tag for flying, do not put your phone number on it. An address is enough for the airline to find you if your bag is lost, but a phone number may be used by criminals to call your house several times to be sure you are gone, and then plan a break-in.

** If going to a theme park, use brightly colored clothes for your children to easily identify them.

** If you have a home security system, purposefully set it off every couple of months and see how long it takes for someone to call your house. That will ensure you are getting top protection from the system.

** Leave a radio or TV on at your house if you go away for the holidays. Thieves will listen at a door for any sounds that might indicate someone is in the house.

** If anyone solicits at your house after dark, call the Sheriff’s Office since it may be a criminal, and it is illegal in St. John to solicit at that time.

** When you answer the door to someone you don’t know, have a phone in your hand as if you are already talking to someone.

** Do not leave a garbage can in the driveway when you leave. Have a neighbor bring it up.

** The same for newspapers and mail. Not only should they be stopped if you are leaving, but you should stop it a day early to be positive it has been stopped, which you can check while you are still home.

“So much is just about paying attention to your surroundings, but unfortunately that is the world we live in now,” Tregre said. “St. John is still a very safe place, but you still have to think about your situation to make sure you don’t become one of the victims we have.”