Vigilance and Security
....at home and at work
This Is A
Note: All prices in US Dollars
Burglars, Shoplifters Especially Busy as Christmas Nears
By BECKY CAMPBELL
KINGSPORT - Distracted shoppers loaded down with Christmas presents, stores crowded with people, and houses left unoccupied while families are away on trips.
Police say these typical holiday scenarios provide numerous opportunities for would-be thieves. But a few precautions and some common sense will make you safer through the holidays.
"As far as shopping, the main thing people need to be careful about is preventing vehicle burglaries," said Kingsport Police Department Community Relations Officer Tom Patton. He said shoppers should park in a well-lit area, keep all valuables out of sight, and lock the vehicle.
"A large percentage of our auto burglaries are committed on unlocked vehicles," Patton said.
"We encourage people to keep their eyes open and keep their hands as empty as possible when they're walking to and from a store," he said. "Be careful to not overburden yourself with packages. You need to have your hands free in order to react to something."
At home, Patton said residents should keep doors and windows locked to help deter unwanted visitors.
Since many people travel during the holidays, Patton said it's a good idea to have good illumination in and around their home.
"Make the home appear as if someone is there - put lights and the TV on timers and keep valuables out of sight."
Patton said this is important even if they're only going to be away a short amount of time.
"A lot of people associate burglaries with a nighttime event, but a lot of ours occur in the day when people are at work," Patton said.
City residents who are going to be away from home can request a vacation check from the police department through Central Dispatch.
"Officers will check on your home while you're away," Patton said.
Patton also said traveling residents should have their mail and paper held or have a responsible, trusted neighbor or friend pick it up for them.
During the holiday, thieves target stores as well as Christmas shoppers and their homes, so store owners have to take extra precautions to protect themselves from shoplifters.
As you enter 'All Season Collectibles and Gifts,' you'll notice a sign telling you surveillance cameras are in operation. Owner Karen O'Neal has had her business open in the Fort Henry Mall for nearly a year, and since that time shoplifters have taken an estimated $500 worth of merchandise out of her store. Video cameras, a sensor detection system and other anti-burglary accessories in the amount of $10,000 were installed in her store prior to the big shopping season.
"I thought that if I had experienced that kind of loss prior to Christmas, it was probably going to get a little worse, so I took action," said O'Neal, who like other store owners across the country have felt the pinch of a shoplifter's shopping spree.
Shoplifters are pocketing more than $25 million in merchandise a day, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), and the majority of those are adult men and women who are collecting anywhere from $2 to $200 per crime.
One report issued last month by Reuters News Service says U.S. retailers lost some $37.4 billion in 2005 due to theft.
"I've just been here since February, so I knew going into Christmas that we were going to have to invest a lot in loss prevention," O'Neal said.
According to KPD Capt. Ed Swayze, off-duty officers are occasionally hired by private businesses to present a security presence during the Christmas season, which sometimes deters shoplifters. Although the crime is often not premeditated, convicted shoplifters say they are caught an average of only once in every 48 times they steal, according to the NASP.
The professional shoplifter is responsible for 10 percent of the total dollar loss a business owner experiences, NASP says, while that loss is usually passed on to consumers through higher prices.
"I'm out here on my own, trying to run a business, then you have someone steal from me. They are literally taking money out of my pocket, so we always have to be on the lookout for a shoplifter," said O'Neal.
Staff Writer, Kevin Castle contributed to this report.