Holiday safety tips from local law enforcement

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(Tribune File Photo)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and Cullman Police Department provided a series of helpful tips to keep homes and yourselves safe this holiday season. 

Tips for your home

  • Keep doors and windows locked at all times 
  • If you are leaving for an extended period of time, have neighbors or family members check on your residence and pick up your mail
  • Set indoor/outdoor lights up on timers to make it difficult for people to know when you are away
  • Leave a radio or TV on to give the appearance that someone is home
  • Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows and doors of your home
  • Be aware of your garbage! If empty boxes are on the curb, bad guys can figure out where the items are
  • If you have a gun inside your residence for protection, make sure you can access it and can safely use it

 Tips for unexpected guests at your door

  • Doorbell cameras and other security technology are great assets to have if possible; being able to see and/or speak with whoever is at the door without opening it is an obvious advantage
  • Be aware that criminals sometime pose as couriers delivering packages or gifts
  • Never open the door if you are uncertain
  • Do not hesitate to call the Sheriff’s Office / Police Department if an issue arises
  • Be skeptical of door-to-door solicitors. Criminals will take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday season

Tips for driving/shopping

  • Keep doors and windows locked, whether you are inside or out of your vehicle
  • If you must shop at night, remember where you park, and park in a well-lit area
  • Pay attention who you are parking beside; avoid vans, camper shells or vehicles with dark-tinted windows
  • Park as close as possible to your destination
  • Never leave your vehicle running while unoccupied (or with children inside!)
  • Do not leave valuables in plain sight
  • Have your keys readily available as you approach your car
  • Always be aware of your surroundings, especially as you are approaching your vehicle
  • Do not approach your vehicle if there are suspicious people loitering around the area
  • Ask security or store personnel to escort you to the vehicle if you are apprehensive

“Pay attention to the surroundings and the people there,” said Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry. “Be on the lookout for that potential ‘bad guy’ and be prepared to act if necessary. Be safe, be smart and above all else, have a Merry Christmas.”

Cullman Police Chief David Nassetta provided more insight on shopping safety. 

“We have very few instances of people actively trying to take stuff from people, by force or threat of violence (robbery),” he said. “We always have people looking to take your stuff while it is sitting in your car (especially if  it is unlocked) or in the back of your truck. We are spoiled living in Cullman; however, so are the thieves, because people make it so easy for them. They appreciate that you refuse to believe that anyone would take your things, as they are helping themselves to the stuff that you just purchased.”

Nassetta said, in terms of shopping safety, if you are going to larger cities, it is always safer and more fun to go with others.

“The old saying that there is safety in numbers is usually true,” he said. “If you find yourself the target of a thief or robber, it is difficult to give advice to fit every situation.  Without going too far off the subject, I will just say that everyone needs to go over these kinds of situations in their head. What I mean by that is, you need to look at incidents that happen and think about how you would react if you were in the same situation. Think of this kind of mental preparation as developing a combat mindset.  In this day and age, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living or how you spend your time – everyone needs to develop a combat mindset. This is not paranoia; it is just deciding that you are going to survive anything that happens and preparing yourself for it before it happens.  Most of this is a mental exercise, but it will lead to skill development, as well. If you see something happening and are not prepared to assist, then be a good witness. License plate numbers are always extremely helpful. So are pictures and videos, if you are in a position to take them.”

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