Twelve days of Christmas crime prevention campaign

Twelve days of Christmas crime prevention campaign

Yes, it’s Christmas again and to do our part Associação Safe Communities Algarve (SCA) is launching a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas Crime Prevention Campaign’, which will extend from the Christmas holiday to the New Year.

This will involve delivering crime prevention messages through various media, including radio, through crime prevention displays with the GNR and PSP, a crime prevention seminar in Cascais, the SCA’s facebook page and, of course, through this regular feature.

Last month we looked at the type of scams criminals use in the lead up to Christmas, mainly targeting those who are the most vulnerable in the community.

With just 19 days to Christmas, I would like to take this opportunity to remind residents concerning the types of crime which are more prevalent at this time of the year and what we can all do to minimise the risk. I am saying this, however, during a period where we have experienced a downward trend in crime, but we should of course never be complacent.

Carrying cash and valuables

Christmas is the time of the year when spending at shops and places of entertainment increases. Criminals are wise to this in two ways: firstly the fact that many people will carry more cash than usual when going shopping and secondly they know that takings by restaurants and bars in particular will also be higher.

It is important, therefore, to try and avoid carrying large sums of cash and instead rely more on credit cards. If you are unfortunate enough to have your wallet or handbag stolen, it is relatively easy to cancel your credit card, but cash, once stolen, is seldom recovered.

Security of your credit card is important and it is worth reminding people of the basics: namely do not let it out of your sight when paying for items; do not carry a written pin number and ensure when using an ATM machine that no one is looking over your shoulder!

Last winter there were a number of robberies where clearly some restaurant and bar owners had been targeted. In these cases it was likely that the criminals had monitored those restaurants and bars where takings were high and then following the person (usually the owner) responsible for taking the cash either to their home or bank.

The risk of this type of crime can be reduced by avoiding one person carrying large sums of cash. It is better to bank lesser amounts more frequently then in one go.

Routes and timings should be varied and on balance it is probably better to keep money in a well hidden and secure safe in the business property rather than carrying cash in the early hours of the morning to your home.

It goes without saying that details of cash movement should only be disclosed to those who really need to know. A recommendation I would also make is that owners and staff carrying cash should invest in a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) alarm so you can summon help immediately. If you ever feel you are being followed then you should activate the alarm; if not carrying a PERS, then call the police immediately.

Protecting your home

Most property crime is carried out by opportunists looking for easy ways to enter a premises quickly without being seen. The most common method of such crime is through open windows when the property is unoccupied. There is a simple message here and that is, before leaving your property spend five minutes checking that windows and doors are closed and locked, lights switched on if at night time, cars locked if kept in a driveway or open car port, and of course not forgetting to activate your alarm when actually leaving the property.

With gold and certain other commodities at an all time high, it is sensible to take precautions to protect jewellery and other gold items. Install and use a good quality safe and keep valuables out of view from windows.

It is important to create the impression that a property is occupied when in fact it is not. The majority of burglars do not want to be confronted by occupants for obvious reasons. Ways to create this impression are to use timers on lights and even radios, which can be set at variable times over an extended period.

If the house is unoccupied over a longer period, then register it as an empty property through the GNR or PSP websites or by visiting your local police station and completing a simple pro-forma.

This is where having a helpful neighbour can be beneficial. A visit to your home just two to three times a week, drawing curtains and moving a car in a driveway are good ways of creating a “lived in impression” as well as checking everything is ok.

It is also worth checking the contents insurance for your property to ensure the contents are still covered if you are away for a lengthy period. It is also a good idea to keep a list of valuable items and record the model and serial number of electrical items.

Taking photographs also helps – if items are stolen police can use these and the recorded details to match recovered items, which may help in their eventual return.

In the street

In crowded places be aware of pickpockets. It is best to carry your handbag under the arm and a wallet in a side/front pocket, not the rear pocket. If you are “bumped into” just check nothing has gone missing – it may not be an accident. In restaurants it is best not to hang handbags or jackets with wallets and other valuables in them, on the back of chairs.

Finally – Christmas is the time of year when we celebrate often with more than the normal amount of alcohol. Take care of your own and your family’s safety by not driving under the influence of alcohol.

By David Thomas
|| [email protected]

David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In October 2011 he founded Safe Communities Algarve an on-line platform here in the Algarve to help the authorities and the community prevent crime. It is now registered as Associação Safe Communities Algarve, the first association of its type in Portugal. 913 045 093