CRESTVIEW — Giving Christmas gifts to thieves is easy: Just leave valuable items in plain view on a car’s back seat.
To make it even easier, leave the car unlocked.
And if you want to be really charitable, leave your keys in the ignition.
A south Okaloosa County resident did just that recently, presenting thieves with not only a firearm, a paddleboard and assorted electronics, but also the entire SUV.
So, how can you prevent a similar occurrence?
“The easiest way to secure your vehicle is to lock it and take the keys with you,” Crestview Police Chief Tony Taylor said.
Taylor said not securing a vehicle does more than cost a resident their belongings they left inside — and possibly the entire car — but it also ties up law enforcement officers.
“It pulls an officer away from responding to potentially more serious crimes,” Taylor said.
With stores and shopping centers getting busier as Christmas approaches, thieves are eyeing unlocked vehicles.
“Bad guys go for the low-hanging fruit,” Taylor said. “In a busy parking lot, they’re not going to waste time picking a lock on a car. Not when a distracted shopper left the next car unlocked.”
The police department offers these holiday safety tips:
VEHICLE SAFETY AND SECURITY
•Wherever you are, lock your car and pocket the keys when you leave.
•Store items in the trunk or toss a blanket over shopping bags.
•Always fasten your seatbelt and ensure passengers do, too. Secure small children in an approved, properly installed child safety seat. Concerned your child’s seat may not be properly adjusted? Come by the Crestview Police Department, 201 Stillwell Blvd., and an officer will check the installation.
•Do not drink and drive or text and drive. Last Thanksgiving, Florida law enforcement agencies responded to almost 10,000 holiday auto crashes, killing more than 80 residents.
PURSES, WALLETS AND MONEY
•If possible, don’t carry a purse when shopping. If you do, never carry anything you can’t afford to lose in it. Even if a purse-snatcher doesn’t get it, it’s easy to set it down while browsing racks and shelves in a store and then walk away and forget it. Carry your keys, wallet or other valuables in your pockets.
•To thwart purse-snatchers, carry your purse across the front of your body, with your forearm across the front of the purse and your elbow held tightly against your side.
•Carry minimum amounts of cash and credit cards. Keep a record of all your card numbers in a safe place at home.
•Before you leave, notify your credit and debit card(s) issuer(s) if you will be traveling. If you suddenly pop up in a different city or state and try to use your card, your bank may suspect fraud and put a hold on your cards.
Finally: Crestview police provide house checks for residents who will be out of town for an extended period.
Officers will contact you — or someone you designate — if any problems arise. Download a request form at www.crestviewpg.org for assistance.