Criminals come out for the holidays

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Tis the season for stringing up lights, putting up the mistletoe, Christmas trees and crime.

And Greenville police spokesman Lt. Anthony Barganier said it's time for area citizens and business owners to be on guard during the holiday season since crimes of shoplifting, scams and bad checks tend to increase, he said.

&#8220We want our citizens and business owners to be on alert,” Barganier said. &#8220We typically see increased activity just before Thanksgiving through mid-January.”

Barganier said that some of the scams to be aware of generally come from people serving as telemarketers wanting to get personal information like social security numbers and banking information.

&#8220We urge people to be on guard when giving personal information over the telephone,” he said.

While shoplifting statistically rises around the holiday season, Randy Beeson said that he also sees an increase in bad checks.

&#8220This is the season when we see twice the volume of checks being written,” said the Greenville store manager. &#8220We communicate with our clerks to make sure we get all the pertinent information before taking a check.”

Shoplifting, he said, has changed over the years.

&#8220I've been in the business for 30 years and have seen teenagers snag a piece of candy or a mother who is just a few dollars short and put something in her bag,” he said. &#8220Now, I see people who are very crafty when they shoplift. They are after more items and bigger-ticket items.”

Like most stores, Fred's has video cameras, but Beeson said that his best eyes over the store are those of his clerks.

Barganier also warns of purse snatchers.

&#8220I would suggest that women not leave their purse in the buggy for an extended amount of time,” he said. &#8220I would also suggest that any shopper not carry a large amount of cash. This is the time for people to commit crimes of opportunity. Don't give them an opportunity.”

Tips for shoppers:

Shoppers should not leave purses and packages visible in their cars while they shop.

Place valuables in your trunk or otherwise out of sight.

If possible, shop with a group of people and avoid driving alone at night.

Only take what you need for the day's shopping; limit the amount of cash and credit cards you carry.

Be aware of your surroundings.

Report suspicious activity to police.

Teach your children to stay close to you.

Don't overload yourself with packages; you might need to react quickly in an emergency.

Rely on your instincts; if you feel uncomfortable and fearful, take precautions.