How to stop the Grinch from stealing your Christmas

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by Kelli Warner
KMTR-TV Morning News anchor
Springfield, OR

The holiday shopping season is not just a time filled with big discounts and doorbusters. It’s also a time when criminals know there’s going to be more people out shopping and more “stuff” inside cars in store parking lots.

It’s worth brushing up on a few safety tips. The first is to make your vehicle as unattractive to a crook as you can. Chances are you’ve heard it said, “Don’t leave valuables in your car.” Eugene Police Sgt. Lisa Barrong says that doesn’t work anymore. “We need to take the word ‘valuable’ out of that sentence. Don’t leave ANYTHING visible inside your car. It doesn’t matter if it seems like something worthless to you,” she says. “To the criminal, it may not be worthless.”

As a crime prevention specialist for the Eugene Police Department, Sgt. Barrong’s job is to teach people what to do to protect against crime. The holidays are a prime time to repeat that message and for us to listen.

Have you ever done this: You go shopping and end up with an armful of bags filled with your purchases. So, you take them out to your car, put them in the trunk and head back into the mall for more shopping. Sgt. Barrong says that’s a big mistake because it’s not uncommon for criminals to be watching. “If they see you put the packages in the trunk and then go back into the mall, they now know they have time to break in,” she explains. “They’re going to break that window, hit that trunk release and get those packages out of your trunk.”

So here’s how you can unload your purchases safely: Put those packages in your trunk, then get into your car and drive around to a different entrance of the shopping area or a different storefront. Anyone who may be watching you will think you are leaving.

Sgt. Barrong also stresses that you never leave your garage door opener in your car. “I always say it’s like taping a key to your house on your dashboard. Would you do that? No. Well, it’s exactly the same thing if you leave a garage door opener in your car. You’re giving the criminals a key to your home.”

And consider investing in a steering wheel locking device like The Club. It will cost you about $35-$40, but you may be able to get one at a discount through your police department. The Eugene Police Department sells them for $11 and Sgt. Barrong says there has never been a car stolen in the city of Eugene that had a locking device on the steering wheel.

Happy (Safe) Holidays—and happy shopping!