Heights police offer holiday safety tips

Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Gavin

HEIGHTS — With holiday plans now in full swing, the Police Department offers tips for people to stay safe while shopping and during their festivities.

“This is the time of year when it seems like we’re all rushed,” Police Chief Lee Gavin said. “But even with everyone’s hectic schedules, it’s important to pause for a few moments to think about staying safe.

“First and foremost, remember that drinking and driving do not mix. If you are going to consume alcohol, give your car keys to a designated driver who hasn’t been drinking. Alcohol, even in small amounts, will impair your judgment and driving ability. It’s not worth the risk of injuring or killing yourself, a loved one, or an innocent stranger by driving while under the influence.”

Gavin said the department – like state, county, and other local law enforcement agencies – will have officers out over the holidays enforcing the city’s zero-tolerance policy toward drivers who are drinking and driving.

Personal safety is also important when out holiday shopping, Gavin said.

“Unfortunately, this is prime-time for pickpockets, purse snatchers and con artists,” Gavin said. “It’s particularly important to stay alert in shopping centers — no matter if they’re crowded or not. A few common-sense measures will go a long way toward reducing the potential for becoming a prospective target.”

Some of these include:

• Pay particular attention to purses and wallets. Keep purses fastened shut, and carry them securely under your arm. Wallets should be kept in an inside jacket pocket, or a front pocket – but not in a back pants pocket. Also, don’t carry large sums of cash or extra credit cards. Take only what is necessary.

• Don’t try to carry more packages than you can efficiently handle – purse snatchers and pickpockets prey on shoppers who are trying to manage a mountain of packages.

• Shop with a friend – particularly during the evening hours.

• Always park in well-lit areas, and have your keys in hand and ready. (Never fumble for your keys when returning to a vehicle). Also, take a moment to check the interior of your car before you get in. Once you’re safely inside, keep your car windows shut and doors locked.

• If you are shopping with small children, make sure they understand to seek a security guard or store clerk if you become separated.

• When using ATM’s, it is best to use them during daylight hours. Avoid machines that are secluded or in out-of-the-way locations. Also, it’s also a good idea to have a companion join you while you are making your transaction.

• Pay attention to your surroundings. If something doesn’t look just right (like people loitering in the parking lot), trust your judgment and go somewhere else. This is particularly true with recent incidents of people being followed home from public places and robbed in their own driveways.

Gavin also urges the public to use care in and around their homes during the holidays. Here, too, a few common-sense steps can help reduce the chance your home will be the target of a break-in.

• Always keep your doors and windows locked – whether you are outside for “just a few minutes, or even in the basement.”

• If you go out for the evening, turn on some lights and perhaps a radio or television. This makes the house appear occupied, and a less likely target for break-in.

• Don’t display gifts in plain sight from a window or doorway. Keep them “out of sight” as much as possible.

• Be wary of solicitors coming to your door and asking for charitable donations. Instead, help the charitable organizations you are familiar with.

• If you’ll be gone for an extended time, arrange for a friend or neighbor to visit your house periodically to shovel the driveway and sidewalks, take in the mail and newspapers.

• Keep in touch with your neighbors, and watch out for each other. If something doesn’t look right in your neighborhood (such as strangers hanging out near a friend’s home), don’t hesitate to call the police. Also, if you are going on vacation or simply going away for a couple of days, City residents can also contact their police department to schedule a periodic “vacation check” by a reserve officer.

“While there is no absolute or foolproof way to protect yourself, your family, home or your possessions” Gavin continued, “taking a few common-sense steps can certainly help reduce the risk. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season, and a safe and healthy 2012.”