Monday, February 19, 2018

Area law enforcement offers cautions to prevent thefts, keep holidays safer

Megan Hix

By Megan Hix
Dec. 6, 2017 at 11:53 p.m.

Holiday gift delivery safety. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Illustration)

While activities such as cooking and shopping are common holiday traditions, they also bring safety risks.

Kilgore and Longview police departments have started seasonal patrols to prevent theft, while the Longview Fire Department is encouraging safe cooking and decorating practices.

Gregg County Sheriff's Office spokesman Joshua Tubb said holiday shoppers are a common target for thieves, and he encouraged covering up gifts or valuables left in vehicles.

"We ask people to make sure when they're out and about — we know they're busy — but make sure you don't leave purses, bags or anything like that visible," he said. "Don't be an easy target for potential theft."

Tubb said this kind of theft can happen anywhere during the holiday season, but prevention can be as simple as being aware of your surroundings.

Longview police spokesman Sgt. Shane McCarter said shoppers should be smart about purchases left in vehicles.

"Don't come out in between stores (at the mall) and throw things in the back seat," after buying them, he said. "You should think about moving your car to the other side of the mall."

The Longview Police Department already started its holiday patrol focused on preventing theft, especially in high-traffic commercial areas of town.

The Kilgore Police Department is urging residents to exercise caution when ordering gifts online. In a Facebook post, the department said to watch out for people driving through residential neighborhoods looking to steal deliveries left on porches.

The department launched "Operation Prevent Pirate Theft" on Nov. 29.

"Officers and detectives will be on special assignment looking for 'Porch Pirates'" until Christmas, according to a Facebook post. "We may even plant some ... traps around town."

The department said to make sure someone is home to accept any deliveries.

Kilgore residents can have packages sent to Main Street Flowers & More, which will accept them for $3 to $5 until Jan. 1.

Also, Christmas lights, cooking and space heaters can present fire hazards during the holidays, said Longview Fire Marshal Kevin May.

With the added risks, it also is especially important for people to have working carbon monoxide and fire detectors, he said.

"Any outdoor cooking or frying should take place at least 15 feet away from your house and not on a wooden deck or dry grass," May said.

Space heaters are a common cause of house fires in winter, May said, and they should be kept 3 feet away from combustible materials. He said to avoid plugging space heaters into extension cords.

"This time of year, extension cords are a necessary evil," May said. "If you have a cheap one, you run the risk of overloading it."

He said people sometimes use indoor extension cords for their outside Christmas lights, which also can be a fire hazard.

May said people with real Christmas trees should be conscious of giving them adequate water, because heat from lights can cause trees to catch fire.



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