WAXAHACHIE — As thoughts turn toward the holiday season, Waxahachie Police remind residents to take extra steps to keep themselves and family members safe as they shop, visit loved ones, and celebrate.

“December is the time where you get a crime spike. People are looking for easy gifts. The easy way to do it is to take it away from somebody else,” Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby said. "Thefts go up, thefts from vehicles go up, and there are some burglaries of homes. Some basic precautions like locking your house will deter the majority of them."

BY THE NUMBERS

The National Retail Federation’s website states that during the five-day holiday weekend of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online — up from 164 million estimated shoppers from an earlier survey.

The most popular day for in-store shopping was Black Friday (77 million consumers), followed by Small Business Saturday with 55 million consumers. Average spending for a person over the five-day period was $335.47 with $250.78 going toward gifts.

According to the Waxahachie Police Department, there were 55 thefts of vehicles and businesses in Dec. 2016. Over that same span the previous year, there were 53 total thefts.

Home burglaries totaled 14 in Dec. 2015 and fell to 7 offenses the following year.

“Our patrol division has put together a task force, and they are developing a whole comprehensive plan on presence and prevention. It incorporates several different elements of extra patrol,” Goolsby said. “We are targeting areas that we have experienced crime spikes before. Peek days and peek times. They are going to a great effort to have to try and help and keep things from happening this holiday season.”

Goolsby said that if residents see any suspicious activity while they are out shopping or in their neighborhood to report to police by calling 9-1-1.

SHOP SAFE

There are some basic precautions that people can take to prevent them from becoming a victim while shopping for Christmas gifts.

One of the first is to keep their purchases or belongings out of plain view by locking it in the trunk. The next step is to lock your vehicle.

Community Service Officer O.T. Glidewell stated thieves pull the door handles of a vehicle to see if it is open or not.

Residents are advised to pay attention when they are out shopping.

“Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t park in isolated spots. Be aware of the persons around you or anybody that is watching you. People are now are walking around and texting on their phones and doing everything but paying attention,” Goolsby explained. “The precautions are simple. It would really eliminate a lot of crime because most crimes are crimes of opportunity. If you don’t give them the opportunity it won’t happen.”

Glidewell shared Goolsby’s concern about leaving items in the open, but a growing problem is people leaving firearms in vehicles. He shared that on previous vehicle burglary calls that expensive items or money has been left and the gun was the only thing taken.

Glidewell states that the best option is to leave the firearm in a secured place at their residence.

SECURE THE HOUSE

Steps can be taken around the home to make it more secure to prevent a break in from happening. Actions that can be taken include locking doors and windows and replacing bulbs of outside lights. Another step is to notify a neighbor if you are going to out of town for the holidays so they can keep an eye on the house.

Glidewell states if residents want to take things a step further they can invest in a camera system. These high definition systems can be purchased at an electronics store for around $500. He noted that video from these systems have led to arrests by police.

OTHER MEASURES

In the event a theft does occur, Goolsby suggests that residents engrave their driver’s license number onto more substantial items like bikes, tools and lawn equipment they might receive as a gift. This step will help to get the item back to its rightful owner.

Glidewell explained that if a person orders an item online, there are additional steps they can practice.

“We have now have a lot of online shopping. When people order things they get left on the front porch and they are not at home. So the thieves are driving around looking for boxes on front porches too,” Glidewell said. “If you order anything online try to be there when it is being delivered. Also, companies like UPS has set it up where you have options. You can leave your phone number where they can contact you prior to delivery.”

Glidewell added that if a person knows they are not going to be home to speak with a neighbor to see if the package can be delivered there instead.