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Holidays Raise Security Needs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Home and auto burglaries can happen any time of the year, but seem more frequent and worse at the holidays.
Many otherwise cautious people get careless with security in the mad shopping rush. And when opportunities present themselves, some people steal from houses filled with gifts under trees and cars displaying the day's purchases.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said people should be more cautious around the holidays.
"Keep the same security measures you do all year, but increase them a bit," Graham said.
Don Evans is security director at Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian. To date, the new mall which opened Oct. 14 has had no purses or packages snatched and no vehicles broken into.
"We have a 24-guard force here and at least two marked vehicle moving at all times," Evans said.
The mall offers regular patrols, good lighting and will soon have guards on top of the buildings watching the parking lots. But even with these security measures, shoppers have a responsibility to take precautions.
"Park in a well-lit area and make sure your car is locked," Evans said. "An open vehicle is an invitation for someone to steal from of it."
Stay in a group when leaving the mall. Keep car keys in hand, but not where someone could grab them. Get in the vehicle as soon as possible and lock the doors.
"Lock all packages in the trunk instead of leaving them out where they can be seen," Evans said.
The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana lists several parking lot safety tips on the Internet.
*Look around and in your car before entering. If you are concerned, simply walk past your car instead of getting into it.
* Stay alert to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
* Check around before getting out of the car. If something seems out of place or threatening, drive away.
Continue safety measures at home once the shopping is over.
"If you get a lot of boxed goods, cut the boxes up and put them in garbage bags," Graham said. "It is never a wise thing to advertise what's new in your home.
"Keep doors locked and outdoor lighting on," Graham said. "Normally burglars will not approach a house that is well-lit."
Proper insurance is often overlooked at the gift-giving season. Graham suggested immediately insuring expensive gifts, even before they are given.