The holiday season is a busy time of the year for everyone, including criminals.
Property-related offences rise significantly during December, but many of the crimes committed are considered crimes of opportunity and are preventable by applying a few Vancouver Island RCMP crime prevention tips.
Criminals are on the prowl and they’re looking to pick low-hanging fruit, said the RCMP in a press release. Police suggest residents lock up everything, including windows, doors – including the garage side-doors, which are often overlooked – and sheds.
Bicycles are a hot commodity with thieves and should be locked and registered with the 529 Garage app.
Get to know who belongs in your neighbourhood, say police. Criminals often find their next targets by going through neighbourhoods on foot or in a vehicle, looking for homes on properties without fences and making note of ones that look unkempt, have no security or floodlights, and especially, no signs of a dog. Thieves will also watch to see which vehicles leave in the morning, when home owners return at the end of the day, and who the dog walkers are. RCMP advise closing blinds at night so prowlers don’t know what’s in the house or possibly under the Christmas tree, and setting alarms in homes that have them.
Simply saying hello or waving might be enough to have thieves move on, say police. An odd reaction or no reaction at all from a stranger to a greeting is part of the information about a suspicious person or activity that can be shared by neighbours.
RCMP also offered some general advice for citizens out and about doing holiday shopping and errands. Holiday shopping in busy malls can be daunting, but not for criminals waiting for opportunities to steal gifts, PIN numbers, break into vehicles or get their hands on whatever they can get away with, police say.
Before parking a vehicle at a mall or store, take a moment to look around, RCMP advise. If someone is sitting in a nearby vehicle who seems to be interested and it causes discomfort, move on to another parking spot, police say, adding that shoppers shouldn’t leave anything of value in vehicles. Unlocked vehicles account for 50 per cent of all break-ins, the police press release notes, so parcels should be discreetly placed in the vehicle’s trunk.
RCMP note that consumers should be wary when using credit cards as criminals like to stand close by to pick off PIN numbers. Police remind shoppers to always conceal PIN numbers and to be careful about discarding receipts in waste bins.
Women should make sure purses are secured when not in use and for men, wallets in back pockets can be accessible to pickpockets.
Never leave gifts in vehicles after returning home, police say. In Nanaimo criminals have watched as purchases were made, then followed unsuspecting targets to their homes, watched to see if the purchased items stayed in vehicles and then later broke into the car, say RCMP.
Anyone with information on individuals involved in crime in the community is asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345.