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MPD advises citizens how to have a safe holiday season

December 6, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

With the gift-giving season just around the corner, the Marshalltown Police Department has a few tips as to how to remain safe.

Capt. Mike Hanken, with the Marshalltown Police Department, said that, unfortunately, home burglaries tend to increase during the holidays.

But, he said, an ounce of prevention goes a long way. Most things are simple enough and involve making an effort to keep personal information private.

Burglars often cruise neighborhoods looking for homes that are easy targets, he said. So, keep curtains closed so as not to display your holiday trove to passersby.

"You can have your tree on for you to enjoy, but you don't want to advertise to an unwanted guest," Hanken said.

Also, make sure to cut up boxes of larger gifts and turn them inside out. Stagger the days you put them out to be picked up; don't put those boxes out to be recycled all at once. Put them out the day of pickup, not the night before, he said.

Anything a person can do to make it appear as if they are home, even when they aren't, helps deter burglars: putting lights and TV on a timer, making sure the sidewalk is shoveled and not letting mail pile up.

And, of course, don't broadcast travel plans where anyone can learn them.

"Don't advertise on Facebook that you are heading to sunny California for the holidays," Hanken said.

When it comes to shopping, shoppers should again work not to appear as easy targets.

Hanken bade shoppers to remember where they parked so as not to appear lost as well make sure to put their gifts in their trunk or, failing that, on the floor of their car covered with a blanket or something similar.

Shoppers should also refrain from carrying a purse whenever possible, he said. It only takes a thief a matter of seconds to steal a purse and mine it for credit cards or other valuables while it may take the owner 30 or 40 minutes to notice it's gone.

While not advocating ubiquitous suspicion, Hanken said people should trust their gut. Most people have a good sense when something is wrong - someone perusing a parking lot looking in cars, trying to be overly helpful after help is declined or lingering outside a store in the cold for seemingly no reason.

Perhaps most importantly, he said people should report such suspicious behavior and not assume that someone else will do it.

"We would all hope if we were being a victim of a crime, and someone saw it, they might do the same for us," he said. "We all want to believe everybody is doing the right thing, but sometimes people use that as an ulterior motive."



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