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Saturday August 1st, 2015 4:24PM

Safety tips for homeowners: Be smart and safe this holiday season

By Alyson Shields Reporter
UNDATED - Not everyone is full of holiday cheer and the holiday season approaches. Burglaries increase during the winter months, especially near Christmas time.

The sentiment was the same from law enforcement agencies all over the region - taking precautions can spare homeowners from being targeted by thieves .

The Banks County Sheriff's Deputy Carissa McFaddin said that many homeowners accidentally advertise they'll be away on vacation. "Don't advertise you're going to be out of town through your social media. And that goes for watching what your kids put out there on Facebook or Twitter. Try to keep it hush-hush if you are going out of town for the holidays, because anyone can see that."

Gainesville Police Corporal Kevin Holbrook echoed McFaddin's statements about accidental advertising. "After Christmas, it's important to not necessarily throw all of your trash, especially along the curb for roadside pick up. If you do receive that big screen television, simply take that box itself to the collection site to be recycled and not put it on the roadside so you are advertising yourself to thieves ." McFaddin also suggested breaking down the box so it's flat and then putting it in the trash, but to put only one box out at a time.

McFaddin encourages travels to entrust a family member or trusted friend or neighbor to watch the home while you are away and make it look occupied - have them gather the mail, turn lights off and on, and perhaps look after the family dog. Dogs can deter burglars, either by barking and frightening a potential intruder, or by implicating that someone is at the residence.

Both agencies emphasized being aware of your surroundings.

"The citizens familiarizing themselves with their communities and their fellow neighbors and recognizing which vehicles actually belong in that area," said McFaddin.

"We find that this is beneficial for when there are suspicious vehicles that enter their neighborhood."

Holbrook said that a neighborhood watch group in the Ridgewood Avenue area noticed a suspicious person and got a vehicle description and tag number. "One of our officers was able to stop that vehicle, and in fact, those individuals had just recently broken in to a neighbors home."

There are many ways residents can deter break-ins, not just during the holidays but year round. Be aware of your surroundings, get to know your neighbors, use your alarm system and be smart about how gifts and leftover packaging are displayed at your home. Any suspicious activity should be reported to local law enforcement.
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