November 16, 2021
With the holiday season just around the corner, the Baltimore County Police Department has rolled out its holiday deployment. Across the County, the department has officers deployed to areas where residents often frequent during this time of year. While officers will be more visible at shopping centers and local malls, it is important for residents to take extra steps to stay safe as well. One way to protect yourself is by practicing situational awareness. If you are unfamiliar with situational awareness, it is simply knowing what is going on around you and recognizing the potential implication. If something or someone seems out of place, it probably is. You might be recognizing a potential threat.
Let us say you are in a parking lot or garage and someone appears to be standing around for no good reason. He or she might be waiting for someone—or that person could be an opportunist waiting to grab your shopping bags or your purse.
Remember, with the nature of the holidays and the hustle and bustle that often surround them, it is easy to get distracted. Picture someone talking on his or her phone; fumbling for a key fob; struggling to open their car door due to the arm full of bags they have with gifts in them. Preoccupied shoppers are easy targets for street robbers or purse-snatchers.
Please follow the tips the Baltimore County Police Department has provided below so that you may have a safe, fun, and joyful holiday season.
- Be discreet with your cash. Do not display large amounts of cash when checking out at a register. You will also want to put your cash away before leaving the checkout.
- Leave the expensive jewelry at home; it makes a tempting target for a thief.
- Carry a purse or shoulder bag close to your body, not dangling by straps. Put a wallet in the inside pocket of your coat or front pants pocket.
- Always walk and park in well-lit areas. Park close to the entrance of the store or mall, if possible. Even outside of the mall, stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets, walkways, and parking areas for walking and parking.
- If you are ready to leave a shopping center and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay inside and ask for a security escort.
- Put the cell phone away before walking through parking lots or on streets. Your phone is a distraction that makes you vulnerable. Keep your full attention on your surroundings. In addition, your cell phone itself can be a tempting target to thieves.
- Have your car keys in your hand, ready to use, before you leave a store. Fumbling for keys at your car is a distraction that leaves you vulnerable to a thief looking to deprive you of your cash, purchases, or even your car.
- Wait until you are within door-opening distance before electronically unlocking your vehicle. This helps stop a thief from getting into the car when you least expect it.
- If you believe someone is following you, cross the street, switch directions, and walk into a store or restaurant. If you are scared, yell or make a noise to attract attention. Do not be embarrassed. Your safety is more important.
- Do not open your car door to anyone in a parking lot or garage. If you believe you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
- Always lock your car, even if you are away for only a few moments.
- Do not leave valuables—gifts, cell phones, purses, or clothing—in open view in your car. Take valuables with you, lock them in your trunk, or cover them in an unobtrusive way.
- Thieves do their own form of window-shopping. They look in parked cars for gifts and other merchandise and they will break through car windows to get those valuables.
- When you return to your vehicle after your shopping trip, lock your car door as soon as you get in.
HOME AND DELIVERED PACKAGES
- Always lock your doors and windows, even if you plan to be out for a short while.
- Leave lights turned on both inside and outside your residence after dark. Criminals do not like bright places.
- If you will be away from home for several days, plan for someone to pick up your mail and newspapers. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign that no one is home, and burglars are tempted to check those envelopes for holiday gifts.
- When returning home after a shopping trip, have the house keys in your hand, ready to use when you reach the door.
If you plan to be out of town for the holidays be sure to fill out a vacant house form. After the form is complete, email it to your precinct and officers will check on the location. If something suspicious does happen, law enforcement will have the necessary information to contact the homeowner or local emergency contact. (link will be embedded) https://resources.baltimorecountymd.gov/Documents/Police/2014pdfs/vacanthouseform141119.pdf
SAFE EXCHANGE ZONES FOR ONLINE TRANSACTIONS
As the number of online purchases and sales of goods quickly increase, so does the potential risks associated with these transactions when they involve meeting a stranger. To keep citizens safe, the Baltimore County Police Department encourages anyone who makes an online purchase that involves an in-person interaction to use our police facilities.
Complete your transactions during daylight hours. Use your local police precinct as a meeting spot. The transaction can occur in the public parking lot or in front of the police facility where there is street parking.
Safe Exchange Zones aim to reduce your chances of being a victim of a crime. Police precincts and facilities listed below are Safe Exchange Zones that are available to the public.
- Precinct 1 Wilkens: 901 Walker Avenue, 21228
- Precinct 2 Woodlawn: 6424 Windsor Mill Road, 21207
- Precinct 3 Franklin: 606 Nicodemus Road, 21136
- Precinct 4 Pikesville: 215 Milford Mill Road, 21208
- Precinct 6 Towson: 115 West Susquehanna Avenue, 21204
- Precinct 7 Cockeysville: 111 Wight Avenue, 21030
- Precinct 8 Parkville: 8532 Old Harford Road, 21234
- Precinct 9 White Marsh: 8220 Perry Hall Boulevard, 21236
- Precinct 11 Essex: 216 North Marlyn Avenue, 21221
- Precinct 12 Dundalk: 428 Westham Way, 21224
- Randallstown Substation: 9113 Liberty Road, 21133
- BCoPD Headquarters: Public Safety Building, 700 East Joppa Road, 21286
Citizens are strongly encouraged to practice these safe approaches when engaging in business transactions with strangers.
- Make sure the exchange takes place in a well-lit and heavily traveled area.
- Ask for the identification of the other party. Take a picture of their identification and vehicle they are driving and even their tag number.
- Do not bring cash. Require payment using a cash transfer app.
- If something does not feel right or the other party is making you uncomfortable, do not continue with the transaction. Instead, go inside the police facility and report any suspicious activity.
BEWARE OF PURSE-SNATCHERS
Shoppers should always beware of purse-snatchers. Do not be distracted; thwart a would-be thief with these simple tips:
- Keep your purse close to your body.
- If the purse has long straps, shorten them.
- If possible, avoid carrying a large purse when shopping. Carry your valuables in something more compact that makes it difficult for a thief to grab and run.
- Use check, debit, or credit cards to avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Carry only the cards you intend to use.
- Use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) wisely. Have the card ready before approaching the machine, and use ATMs in high traffic areas.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE DONATING TO CHARITY
- Be wary of any organization that sends an unsolicited email to ask for donations. Do not open any attachment associated with suspect messages to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Scammers even change the caller ID to look like a local area code, making you think they are legitimate.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission's website for details on charity scams, how to report them, and precautions to take before donating.
- If you want to give, find out how an organization accepts donations.
- Give to organizations with a history of service and commitment to the community.
- Check the Better Business Bureau for a list of accredited charitable organizations.
HOLIDAY TRASH SAYS A LOT ABOUT YOU
The boxes that your gifts come in say a lot about what is in your home. We have to contend with descriptive packaging that advertises to the world that we have a new computer, television, video players, games, and other expensive electronic equipment.
Burglars often canvass neighborhoods looking for items of value and they need look no farther than the curbside on trash day to see what they can steal. Do not advertise to a thief what gift you received during the holiday. Instead, break down those gift boxes, then place the pieces inside out, when possible, or place them in a trash receptacle.
SHREDDING IS IMPORTANT, TOO
Make life difficult for criminals: use a crosscut shredder to shred unwanted bills containing debit and credit card numbers. All those numbers tell a story about who you are and give personal information regarding other forms of credit beyond the receipts in the trash.
EXTEND THE LIFE OF YOUR HOLIDAY GIFTS: GET THEM ENGRAVED
Consider having valuable gifts engraved with your driver's license number or Maryland ID number. Never use your Social Security number to engrave valuables. If the item is stolen and later recovered by police, the engraved number will allow investigators to return the property to you. Engraving also may deter thieves because the identifying information makes it more difficult for them to dispose of or sell valuables.
Easy-to-use engraving equipment and instructions are available, free of charge, to Baltimore County residents at County police precincts and through many Citizens on Patrol chapters.
- Engrave a driver's license number or Maryland ID number on your property.
- Never use your Social Security number.
- Do not limit engraving to your holiday gifts. You can engrave all of your precious possessions.
For additional information on safeguarding yourself and your possessions, be sure to check out all of our crime prevention tips on the Baltimore County Police website Safety page.
SOCIAL MEDIA: SNAP OUT OF IT FOR THE HOLIDAYS
More criminals are using social media to find and target properties they know might be empty. As more people share pictures of their lives online, opportunists may be able to find out where you live, and knowing that it is empty, take advantage.
- If you really want to post pictures of your holidays, it is best to do it when you get back.
- Never use the geotag feature, which shows the location, to avoid followers knowing where you are in the world.
- It is also important not to advertise holiday plans online - giving opportunists time to plan.