TOWSON, MD—With the holiday season right around the corner, the Baltimore County Police Department is preparing to roll out its holiday deployment. Across Baltimore County, the department has officers deployed to areas residents often frequent during the holiday season.
While officers will be more visible at shopping centers and local malls, it is important for residents to take extra steps to stay safe as well.
HOLIDAY SAFETY TIPS
- Be discreet with your cash. Do not display large amounts of cash when checking out at a register. You will also want to put your cash away before leaving the checkout.
- Leave the expensive jewelry at home; it makes a tempting target for a thief.
- Carry a purse or shoulder bag close to your body, not dangling by straps. Put a wallet in the inside pocket of your coat or front pants pocket.
- Always walk and park in well-lit areas. Park close to the entrance of the store or mall, if possible. Even outside of the mall, stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets, walkways, and parking areas for walking and parking.
- If you are ready to leave a shopping center and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay inside and ask for a security escort.
- Put the cell phone away before walking through parking lots or on streets. Your phone is a distraction that makes you vulnerable. Keep your full attention on your surroundings. In addition, your cell phone itself can be a tempting target to thieves.
- Have your car keys in your hand, ready to use, before you leave a store. Fumbling for keys at your car is a distraction that leaves you vulnerable to a thief looking to deprive you of your cash, purchases, or even your car.
- Wait until you are within door-opening distance before electronically unlocking your vehicle. This helps stop a thief from getting into the car when you least expect it.
- If you believe someone is following you, cross the street, switch directions, and walk into a store or restaurant. If you are scared, yell or make a noise to attract attention. Do not be embarrassed. Your safety is more important.
- Do not open your car door to anyone in a parking lot or garage. If you believe you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
- Always lock your car, even if you are away for only a few moments.
- Do not leave valuables—gifts, cell phones, purses, or clothing—in open view in your car. Take valuables with you, lock them in your trunk, or cover them in an unobtrusive way.
- Thieves do their own form of window-shopping. They look in parked cars for gifts and other merchandise and they will break through car windows to get those valuables.
- When you return to your vehicle after your shopping trip, lock your car door as soon as you get in.
HOME PROTECTION AND PACKAGE DELIVERY
- Always lock your doors and windows, even if you plan to be out for a short while.
- Leave lights turned on both inside and outside your residence after dark. Criminals do not like bright places.
- If you will be away from home for several days, plan for someone to pick up your mail and newspapers. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign that no one is home, and burglars are tempted to check those envelopes for holiday gifts.
- When returning home after a shopping trip, have the house keys in your hand, ready to use when you reach the door.
Residents who plan to be out of town for the holidays should fill out a vacant house form. After the form is complete, residents should email it to their local and officers will check the location. If something suspicious happens, law enforcement will have the necessary information to contact the homeowner or local emergency contact.
The PDF form can be completed online here.
SAFE EXCHANGE ZONES FOR ONLINE TRANSACTIONS
As the number of online purchases and sales of goods quickly increase, so do the potential risks associated with these transactions when they involve meeting an individual offline. The Baltimore County Police Department encourages anyone making an online purchase that involves an in-person interaction to use police facilities.
Complete transactions during daylight hours. Use local police precincts as a meeting spot. The transaction can occur in the public parking lot or in front of the police facility where there is street parking.
Police precincts and facilities listed below are Safe Exchange Zones that are available to the public.
- Precinct 1 Wilkens: 901 Walker Avenue, 21228
- Precinct 2 Woodlawn: 6424 Windsor Mill Road, 21207
- Precinct 3 Franklin: 606 Nicodemus Road, 21136
- Precinct 4 Pikesville: 215 Milford Mill Road, 21208
- Precinct 6 Towson: 115 West Susquehanna Avenue, 21204
- Precinct 7 Cockeysville: 111 Wight Avenue, 21030
- Precinct 8 Parkville: 8532 Old Harford Road, 21234
- Precinct 9 White Marsh: 8220 Perry Hall Boulevard, 21236
- Precinct 11 Essex: 216 North Marlyn Avenue, 21221
- Precinct 12 Dundalk: 428 Westham Way, 21224
- Randallstown Substation: 9113 Liberty Road, 21133
- BCoPD Headquarters: Public Safety Building, 700 East Joppa Road, 21286
Shoppers should always beware of purse-snatchers. Thwart a would-be thief with these simple tips:
- Keep purses close to the body.
- If the purse has long straps, shorten them.
- If possible, avoid carrying a large purse when shopping. Carry valuables in something more compact that makes it difficult for a thief to grab and run.
- Use check, debit, or credit cards to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) wisely. Have the card ready before approaching the machine, and use ATMs in high traffic areas.
DONATING TO CHARITY
- Be wary of any organization that sends an unsolicited email to ask for donations. Do not open any attachment associated with suspect messages to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Scammers may change their caller ID to look like a local area code.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website for details on charity scams, how to report them, and precautions to take before donating.
- Before donating, find out how an organization accepts donations.
- Give to organizations with a history of service and commitment to the community.
- Check the Better Business Bureau for a list of accredited charitable organizations.
The boxes that gifts come in say a lot about what may be inside residents’ homes.
Burglars often canvass neighborhoods looking for items of value and curbside trash can be a good indicator. Residents should break down gift boxes, then place the pieces inside out, when possible, or place them in a trash receptacle.
Make life difficult for criminals: use a crosscut shredder to shred unwanted bills containing debit and credit card numbers.
ENGRAVING HOLIDAY GIFTS
Consider having valuable gifts engraved with a driver’s license number or Maryland ID number. Never use a Social Security number to engrave valuables. If the item is stolen and later recovered by police, the engraved number will allow investigators to return the property to its rightful owner. Engraving also may deter thieves because the identifying information makes it more difficult for them to dispose of or sell valuables.
Easy-to-use engraving equipment and instructions are available, free of charge, to Baltimore County residents at local police precincts and through many Citizens on Patrol chapters.
More criminals are using social media to find and target properties that they know might be empty. As more people share pictures of their lives online, opportunists may head for homes that they know are empty.
- If you really want to post pictures of your holidays, it is best to do it when you get back.
- Never use the geotag feature, which shows the location, to avoid followers knowing where you are in the world.
- It is also important not to advertise holiday plans online – giving opportunists time to plan.