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Jack London Square reflection in the Christmas tree ornament (from Flickr, by Hitchster)

The OPD shares tips for avoiding crime during the holidays

on December 21, 2010

Hot door knobs, swinging paint cans and pet Tarantula spiders may have defended the young Kevin McAllister against two burglars in Home Alone, but boobytraps may not be enough to protect your belongings during the holidays, when some kinds of crime typically increase.

“During the holiday season we have an increase in robbery and theft-related crimes,” said Oakland Police Department spokesman Officer Jeffrey Thomason. “They are typically crimes of opportunities, people walking by cars where there is a laptop or purse in present view.”

Additional risk factors that lead to increased crime during the holidays include extended home vacancies due to travel, and people leaving holiday gifts visible through home or car windows. Scams are also a concern during the holiday season, as residents may be aggressively solicited by phony charitable organizations.

According to Thomason, some kinds of deterrents don’t work well to prevent holiday property crimes. For example, he said, a suspect who had burglarized an Oakland house over Thanksgiving weekend revealed some of the tricks of his trade to police officers: If the blinds were open and he could see valuables like a flat-screen TV, he’d wait for the residents to leave and then break into the home. Alarm systems were of no concern for the suspect, who said the typical security system response time of five minutes provides enough time to get in and out of a home. Also, the suspect said, dogs are not deterrents because most are easily scared or non-responsive.

Thomason said that the OPD will not be sending extra officers to patrol the streets during the holiday season. “We are down by 130” officers, he said. However, the department does recommend the following tips for staying safe during the holiday season:


• Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave home, even for a few minutes.  Make sure all doors close easily and lock securely.

• When leaving home for an extended time, ask a family member or trusted neighbor to watch your house, pick up your newspaper and mail, and accept any deliveries.

• Indoor and outdoor lights – plus a radio – should be left on, operated by an automatic timer so your home looks and sounds occupied when you are away.

• Home displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows or doors.

• Engrave personal property with your California Drivers License or California ID number. Photograph or videotape the items you cannot engrave.  An engraver is available from the OPD by calling (510) 986-2715.


• Criminals try to take advantage of your goodwill during the holiday season.  Your trust in others can make you vulnerable to scams.

• Be wary of aggressive solicitors or panhandlers at your front door and never invite them into your home.

• Consider posting a “NO SOLICITING” sign that is visible to anyone approaching your door.  Legitimately licensed solicitors should not bother you.  All others should be considered unscrupulous and in violation of the law.

• Do not give or verify personal or financial information about you or anyone else over the phone to anyone you don’t know personally.

• Do not dial any phone number for anyone who telephones wanting to “check your line.”

• Do not give permission to be put on any list for donations or give out your credit card number. If you wish to donate, mail your donation directly to recognized charitable organizations.

• Say no to anyone representing “charitable organizations” who wants cash and is willing to come to your home to pick up the “donation.”


• Inform your neighbors of your plans for a holiday party and apologize in advance for any inconvenience the party may cause. Invite them to the party.

• If your neighbor cannot attend, be considerate; don’t let the music get too loud and plan to end the party at a reasonable time.

• Before guests arrive, remove items of value from the rooms where the party will be held.  Secure your valuables in a locked room.  (It may be necessary for you to replace some existing locks or install deadbolt locks on some interior doors.)

• Consider providing only non-alcoholic beverages for your guests.

• If alcohol is to be served, arrange for a designated driver who will not drink any alcohol and will be available to transport those who may need a ride home.

• If you host a party where alcohol is being served and children or persons under 21 years old are present, do not permit them to consume any alcohol.

• Be wary of “party crashers.”  Calmly ask them to leave.  If they refuse, do not become aggressive. Remain calm.  Call the police non-emergency number immediately at (510) 777-3333.


• Do not leave packages or any other items in plain view on the seat of your car.

• Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside.

• Assess your surroundings when arriving at any location, and be aware of your surroundings when leaving or approaching your car.

• Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.

• As much as possible and practical, avoid driving alone at night.

• Make sure all doors and windows are closed and locked while in or out of your car.

• If you must stop while driving at night, park in a well-lighted area.

Image: Jack London Square reflection in the Christmas tree ornament (from Flickr, by Hitchster)

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