CRESTVIEW — Thieves often prey on unsuspecting individuals amid the holidays’ hustle and bustle. However, armed with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office and Crestview Police Department’s tips, you can avoid becoming a target.
"The biggest thing we get is people not properly locking up their cars and homes," Ashley Bailey, a crime prevention specialist with Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, said. "Eighty to 85 percent of car burglaries are due to unlocked cars.”
Thieves who don’t steal the vehicle may still take items from inside unlocked vehicles, Bailey said.
"They will take anything that isn't nailed down, from loose change to cell phones and iPads," Bailey said.
Some items may reveal personal information, which can lead to more problems like identity theft, officials said.
On the county’s north side, thieves often target houses on large property with few surrounding neighbors, officials said, adding that burglary attempts happen in the daytime, too.
Burglaries particularly happen when thieves see evidence of valuable merchandise — a box for a large HDTV, for instance — that might be inside the home.
"People should not keep boxes of large purchases outside, near their trash cans, for everyone that drives by to see," Bailey said. "They should break them down and put them inside the trash."
Patrolling officers can help, too.
Okaloosa residents can add their home addresses to the Vacation Security Check website and officers will check their homes when possible. Residents should give a one-week notice before their trip and list family, friends and neighbors who might have reason to stop by.
The Crestview Police Department typically sees a slight increase in property crime during the holiday season, according to Public Information Officer Lt. Andrew Schneider, who suggested several ways to deter would-be criminals.
• "Have adequate exterior lighting; a motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards," a department news release stated.
• Trim trees and shrubs to eliminate hiding spots that would allow potential break-ins.
• Keep an inventory of expensive household items — computers, televisions — and their serial numbers.
• Purchase an alarm system for peace of mind.
• Form a neighborhood watch group.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.