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Safety officials urge caution during hectic holidays

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With Christmas just days away, Gwinnett police are urging citizens to remain vigilant and keep a few precautions in mind.

Gwinnett police spokesman Officer Brian Kelly said that while the department "operates at a heightened sense of awareness" during the holidays, there are things people can do to help keep themselves from becoming victims.

"The holiday season is always a special time of the year," Kelly said. "It is also a time when busy people become more vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. We can never be too careful, too prepared or too aware."

On behalf of the Gwinnett County Police Department, Kelly offered tips on how to be safe while driving, using an ATM, shopping, hosting parties; just about any imaginable scenario.

At home:

* Lock doors and windows when you leave, even if you only plan on being gone a few minutes.

* If leaving for an extended period of time, have someone keep an eye on the house and pick up newspapers and mail.

* Keep large gift displays out of plain sight through windows and doors.

Driving:

* Avoid driving alone or at night, if possible. If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area.

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

* Don't tempt thieves by leaving packages in plain sight in your car.

* When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.

* Locate your keys before going to your car and keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and/or packages.

When using ATMs:

* Choose one that is located inside, or in a well-lighted location, and only take out as much cash as you need.

* Shield the ATM keypad from anyone standing near and do not throw the receipt away near the ATM.

Shopping:

* Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and keep money in your front pocket.

* Record the serial numbers of large purchases as soon as possible and keep a record of it.

* Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason, as con artists may use various methods of distraction.

The department recommends that when hosting a party, you should provide non-alcoholic beverages for those choosing not to drink and find alternate transportation, perhaps an official designated driver, for those who have been.

Finally, for those attending parties, Kelly said the key is knowing your safe limit and not getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

These common-sense measures, he said, will help ensure a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

"The Gwinnett County Police Department wishes you a safe, happy and peaceful holiday season," Kelly said.