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Crime rarely spikes around the holidays in Hall County
Authorities offer extra patrols upon request
Gainesville police offer extra patrols and home checks when people are out of town. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times

Protect your home from burglary

Lock it up
- Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave your house or apartment, even for a few minutes.
- Ensure that all exterior doors have a deadbolt lock; a double-keyed deadbolt is preferred, especially if your entry door has glass windows or sidelight windows that would allow a burglar to simply break the glass, reach in and unlock the door.
- Replace factory strike plate screws with screws about 3 inches in length, so that they reach far back into the wood studs of the door frame. The factory screws are usually very short and only go into the softwood of the door jamb.
- Never hide a key outside your door. Burglars know to look all around entryways for hidden keys (yes, even beneath that flower pot or that inconspicuous looking rock in the flower bed).
- Use a “Charlie Bar” or similar device on sliding glass doors. Depending on the door design, you may also consider driving a screw or installing a spacer in the top track to prevent the door from being lifted off the track and removed.
- Consider “pinning” windows if necessary by drilling a hole through both upper and lower sashes and inserting a metal pin, nail, or a screw. This method secures both parts of the window together so they cannot be slid up or down if the lock is defeated. Make sure every window has a lock.

Light it up
- If you go out for the evening, turn on lights and a radio or television so the house or apartment appears to be occupied.
- If you take a holiday trip away from your home, have some interior lights activated by an automatic timer. Have a neighbor or family member watch your house, pick up the mail and newspaper and park his or her motor vehicle in your driveway from time to time.
- All approaches to exterior entryways should be lit.
- Motion sensor lights are excellent, but sometimes prove to be finicky. Be sure to adjust the sensor’s position to cover the likely avenue of approach, and keep the sensor’s lens clean and dust-free.
- Make sure your landscaping doesn’t grow to block your lighting.
- Conduct periodic lighting inspections to ensure seldom-used bulbs remain in good working order.
- Make sure your landscaping doesn’t grow to block your lighting.

Watch your valuables
- Don’t display holiday gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway.
- Mark your valuables with a unique identification number.
- Avoid leaving boxes from purchases (especially TVs, computers, etc.) out on the curb for trash pickup.

Source: Gainesville Police Department, Hall County Sheriff’s Office

Christmas is a time of giving. But sometimes that turns to a time of taking as burglars hit houses full of gifts.

The month of December doesn’t necessarily report an increase in thefts and burglaries, though.

Gainesville police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook reported a 14 percent decrease in burglaries and a 14 percent decrease in thefts in December 2010, compared to November. In 2011, it was the same, except an 8 percent decrease in thefts.

“Overall, in 2011, total property crimes recorded a 5 percent decrease from 2010,” he said.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office reported there sometimes is a spike in property crime this time of year, but not normally.

“We sometimes see an increase, but in reality, our overall numbers don’t normally spike around Christmas,” sheriff’s office spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks wrote. “You’ll note that in December of 2009 we saw a significant spike, but this is not the norm.”

The key is standard crime prevention measures, including increased visibility.

“Visibility — that is a crime deterrent — but we do utilize a number of other crime-fighting measures as well, not just during the holidays but year-round,” Holbrook said, “tracking crime trends and patterns, through crime analysis, in an attempt to reduce crime.”

Wilbanks said that the misconception of holiday crime has to do with the emotional aspect.

“Residential burglaries around Christmas sometimes get a little more attention because of the circumstances. Gifts that were intended for children are often taken in these crimes, so it tugs at the heartstrings a little more,” he said.

While authorities remain vigilant in curbing property crimes, they recommend residents take certain steps to secure their property.

“If you take a brand-new TV box and leave it out on the curb until trash pickup in three, four days, you’re essentially advertising yourself to thieves,” Holbrook said.

If you’re not home for the holidays, that may be obvious to thieves, too, but both agencies said they offer extra patrol if requested.

“Many times what (residents) can do is contact dispatch, or contact the police department to let us know they will be out of town — that they will be away from their homes,” Holbrook said. “And we will extra patrol their residence during those days.”

The sheriff’s office offers a similar service, and residents can fill out an online form to request it.

“Time permitting during (deputies’) normal shift, they will make random checks of the residence.”

Wilbanks said the “best crime prevention measure is simply being observant for anything out of the ordinary in your neighborhood and watching out for your neighbors.”

“Most of our residential burglaries take place during the daytime, so pay attention to people and vehicles that are not normally around,” he said.

If something is suspicious, it’s worth picking up the phone, he said.

“Many of the burglary arrests our deputies have made were a direct result of a citizen observing something and reporting it,” Wilbanks wrote.

Wilbanks stressed that the unpleasantness of burglary always applies, not just at Christmas. The sheriff’s office recommends home security measures for all times of the year.

“The truth of the matter is that a home burglary, regardless of what time of year it takes place, is a terrible thing for the victims to go through,” he said.

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