by Sarah Squires
At least three rental properties have been broken into over the last week and police are warning people to be careful over the holidays to help prevent burglaries.
Residences on the 200 block of East Howard Street, the 50 block of East King Street, and the 350 block of Grand were broken into. Although nothing of value was found missing at the first two residences, the third, which housed seven students, had a missing WSU laptop and other items.
Deputy Police Chief Paul Bostrack warned that residents should take extra precautions in locking homes, windows and car doors to prevent easy access. Alerting neighbors when you're away over the holidays can also help them keep an eye on your residence, he said.
A common mistake is leaving Christmas presents viewable from outside a car, said Bostrack. Presents and other valuable items should be locked inside a car trunk, hidden under a seat or taken inside.
The Minnesota Crime Prevention Association has additional tips to keep the holiday season safe:
If you're traveling:
"Set an automatic timer for your lights;
"Ask a neighbor to watch your home, shovel the walks, pick up newspapers, collect mail and park in the driveway from time to time to make the house look lived in; and
"Be sure to keep any gifts that may be left in the house out of sight while you're gone.
If you're out for the evening:
"Turn on lights and a radio or television so that it appears that someone is home;
"Lock all doors and windows while you are out, even if just for a few minutes; and
"Do not place packages or gifts near windows or in other high-visibility areas.
If you're shopping:
"Don't let your guard down just because you are rushing;
"Stay alert and be aware of everything around you at all times. Report suspicious activity by calling 911. The police need your eyes and ears to assist them;
"Park in well-lit spaces and as close to the store as possible, lock your car doors and hide packages in the trunk or under the seat. Be certain to hide items each time you return to the car;
"Don't carry large amounts of cash, pay with a check or a credit card if possible. Tell the clerk to check your ID if they do not ask for it. Don't discard your receipts until you get home. Thieves like to collect receipts and use them to return items that were stolen from the store;
"Carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket. Don't leave your purse in a cart and walk away; and
"If you take your children shopping, teach them to go to a police officer or store security guard if they get separated or lost.
If you're at home:
"Turn on outside lights to deter burglars;
"Report any suspicious behavior to the police or local community watch groups; and
"Get to know your neighbors -- join or start a neighborhood watch today!
If a stranger comes to the door:
"Stay alert to suspicious-looking couriers delivering packages to you or your neighbors;
"Many con artists take advantage of holiday generosity by going door-to-door. Ask for identification and get specifics to how and where donations will be spent/used; and
"If you feel uncomfortable, just say "no thank you" and shut the door.