APD offers holiday safety tips

In the holiday season people tend to be full of good cheer, drop their guard and feel good.

Criminals watch and count on guards dropping, shoppers flashing cash or cards and putting their holiday purchases on the back seat of the car.

"I can assure you as you make the mistakes, someone out there in your community is watching you," The purpose of this meeting is to give you an overview of your dos your don'ts," said Albany City Commissioner John Howard at a monthly Town Hall meeting at the East Albany Community Center.

"It is the times we are living in. Years ago we left our windows open, our doors unlocked, ladies and gentlemen those days are gone."

About 12 people showed up to hear Albany Police Department Chief John Proctor, Lt. Tracey Barnes and Lonnie Bowman of Albany's Phoenix Group Credit Check speak about holiday crime tips and financial fraud.

Police officials emphasized 12 holiday safety tips. More tips are available on the city Web site albany.ga.us under city government, the police department section and finally APD Holiday safety Tips.

Be aware of anyone suspicious hanging out in parking lots or on the street, Barnes said. Call the police to check out loitering people.

"When in a parking lot like at the mall, don't wander through the parked cars," Barnes said. "That is where criminals can hide."

Proctor advised that shoppers buy from reputable stores, not from street vendors or online from Web sites that require money sent in to individuals before delivering the goods.

"Let's face it, you aren't going to get a Rolex watch from a guy on the street for $10," Proctor said. "If you travel to other cities, Macon, Atlanta, be mindful of the tips. It is not just in Albany. October starts the peak robbery season that peaks after the New Year."

In keeping with the season Albany residents can expect to see more flashing blue lights as police become more visible in neighborhoods to deter crime, Proctor said. The patrols will be at varying times on varying dates, he added.

"Just as we increase our visibility at the malls and in the neighborhoods, we would like the residents to be our eyes and ears," Proctor said. "Call us if you see something suspicious."

As a financial consultant Bowman emphasized the importance of maintaining a good credit report. He also said thieves, even family members using someone's cards could destroy a credit rating with dire consequences.

"You can't buy a house, if you purchase a car they are going to put you in a double digit interest rate," Bowman said. "There is a lot of repercussions behind that credit score that you might not be aware of."

The next Town Hall is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 21 at the center 1721 E. Oglethorpe Blvd. the topic was not announced.

From the Albany Police Department -- 12 Holiday Safety Tips:

1. Park in a well-lighted area.

2. Be mindful of your surroundings.

3. Shop with a friend or relative.

4. Keep your cash or credit cards in a front pants pocket.

5. Place gifts in the trunk of your car out of sight.

6. When returning to the car from shopping, carry the keys in your hand.

7. Keep your vehicle locked.

8. Have someone watch your home.

9. Do not display trees and/or gifts in the window.

10. Leave lights and television on when you are away so the home looks occupied. Use a timer.

11. Keep all doors and windows locked.

12. Do not put boxes from gifts out with the trash.