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Christmas is just around the corner and decorations are on display everywhere. Consider it a sign — the Dothan Police Department would like to remind the public that during the holiday season, crime rates increase.

“Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year,” said Dothan police Lt. Doug Magill. “Unfortunately, it is also the time of year we see an increase in several crimes such as theft and burglary crimes. This is why I encourage everyone to plan ahead this holiday season.”

According to Magill, following a few safety tips can help decrease someone’s chance of becoming a victim this holiday season.

“When it comes to shopping, everyone needs to make sure they are alert to their surroundings,” he said. “Shop in pairs, and always remember to secure your personal belongings. On the business end of shopping, retailers need to make sure extra eyes are available. We will see a huge increase in shoplifting cases during the holiday season.”

Magill also reminds every one of the dangers of purchasing items from individuals, such as using Craigslist.

“Never meet someone you don’t know to purchase an item,” he said. “Too many individuals agree to meet someone they don’t know in a location they are not familiar with, to purchase an item off Craigslist. This can be extremely dangerous, if not deadly. Always pick a safe and monitored location to buy or sell an item.”

The Dothan Police Department offers a Safe Exchange Location.

“This program offers everyone a safe location to buy or sell items,” Magill said. “The area is under video surveillance 24 hours a day. By utilizing a Safe Exchange location, individuals are protecting themselves from being a victim of rape, robbery or worse. This program is open to everyone.”

Many homeowners could also find themselves being targeted this holiday season.

“Criminals love for everyone to be busy,” Magill said. “If you are busy, you are in a hurry, and the small things that should matter will not matter as much. No matter how busy you get this holiday season, be safe. When it comes to leaving your home at night to attend special functions or shopping, homeowners should leave a light on or maybe invest in the Ring (video doorbell), or any security app you can utilize with your cellphone. This tends to throw the burglar off track. Also, when no one is home, close the blinds where gifts under the tree can’t be seen.”

Being neighborly can really pay off during the holiday season, police say.

“Neighbors should always look out for each other,” Magill said. “If any suspicious activity is noticed, call 911.”

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