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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Chief Chat: RPD offers safety tips for the holiday season

  • Well, here we are, less than a week away from Christmas and if you are like me, you are still out scrambling for those last minute gifts for family and friends.
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  • Well, here we are, less than a week away from Christmas and if you are like me, you are still out scrambling for those last minute gifts for family and friends.
    It seems to me that our shops and outlets get busier as the deadline approaches which leads me to believe that I am not the only last minute panicked shopper.
    The good news is that here in our community we have a wide selection of goods and services provided locally to satisfy just about any need.
    You can buy clothing, electronics, cars, trucks, jewelry, motorcycles and ATVs, shoes and boots, furniture, books, appliances, tools, saddles, games, toys, housewares, musical instruments, guns, fishing equipment, sporting goods, cellphones, computers, bicycles, lawn mowers, hair care products, a tattoo, a pedicure and even a slice of pie.
    Yes, these and many more products and services are available right here in Rolla where you can enjoy shopping and a meal, take in a play or show and be with people you know and trust and not spend a lot of time or travel expenses getting there.
    As you know, the City of Rolla’s services, i.e. police, fire, public works, etc., are funded through our sales tax revenues that are generated by people shopping and purchasing items here in Rolla. Please keep this in mind as you set out on your shopping adventure — your community’s future depends on it!
    Last week, Sgt. Vince Giacolone traveled to Jefferson City for the annual Special Olympics – Missouri Law Enforcement Torch Run kickoff. This is the event that shows recognition for all the hard work and dedication law enforcement officers from across Missouri take on in support of our Special Olympics athletes.
    This year in recognition of the same, the Rolla Police Department was awarded Greatest Increase in Gross Dollars for Region 6, Greatest Percentage Increase in Region 6 and Outstanding Agency of the Year for Region 6.
    In addition, Sgt. Vince Giacolone, who is also the Region 6 assistant coordinator, was awarded Outstanding Volunteer/Unsung Hero award for his contributions to our Special Olympics athletes in Region 6.
    The Rolla Police Department has been a supporter of Special Olympics since the 1980s and has been a proud Torch Club member since 1993. Torch Club members are law enforcement agencies that raise at least $1,000 in donations for Special Olympics each year.
    This year we will continue our tradition and will be offering the 2014 Law Enforcement Torch Run T-shirts for sale beginning immediately. On Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, the Rolla Police Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop I will be hosting the first ever Polar Plunge. This event will be held at the Fugitive Run Quarry just east of Rolla and all proceeds benefit our Special Olympics athletes.
    Page 2 of 4 - If you are interested in “Freezin’ for a Reason,” gather family and friends, and take the plunge with us. For more information on T-shirt purchases and the Polar Plunge visit our Rolla Police Department Facebook page or contact Sgt. Vince Giacolone at 308-1213. Thank you for helping us help the athletes.
    Speaking of Special Olympics, we would like to thank Kent’s Jewelry owner Kent Bagnall for his continued support of Special Olympics – Missouri with his donation of $500 to the Polar Plunge Rolla benefit. Thanks, Kent!
    In closing, I would like to include these holiday safety tips as I do each year.
    If you are traveling
    • Get an automatic timer for your lights.
    • Ask a neighbor to watch your home, shovel snow and park in the driveway from time to time.
    • Don't forget to have mail and newspaper delivery stopped. If it piles up, it's a sure sign you're gone.
    If you are out for the evening
    • Turn on lights and a radio or TV so it looks like someone's home.
    • Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave, even if it's just for a few minutes.
    • Don't display gifts where they can be seen from outside.
    If you are shopping
    • Stay alert and be aware of what's going on around you.
    • Park in a well-lighted space, and be sure to lock the car, close the windows and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.
    • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
    • Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Don't overburden yourself with packages. Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
    • Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
    Protect your vehicle
    Loading up on all those gifts is a sign of progress in the holiday shopping. But if those packages are left out in the open after they're in the car, your car has become a likely target for thieves. Remember the old cliché — "Out of sight, out of mind?" The same idea applies to items in your car.
    Always lock your vehicle and store all items out of sight. Breaking into an empty car isn't worth a thief's time. However, anything left in plain view – from your holiday gifts to spare change, sunglasses, CDs, cellphones or briefcases – may tempt a thief.
    Page 3 of 4 - Help prevent your vehicle from being stolen by always locking your car and using anti-theft devices. And although it's cold, never leave your vehicle running while you run inside your home or a store – even if for only a minute or two.
    If a stranger comes to the door
    Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts. And it's not uncommon for people to try to take advantage of others' generosity during the holidays by going door-to-door for charitable donations when there's no charity involved.
    Ask for identification, and find out how the funds will be used. If you aren't satisfied, don't give. Help a charitable organization you know and like instead.
    Last but not least, don't let holiday stress get the best of your holiday spirit. Make time to get together with family, friends, and neighbors. And think about reaching out in the spirit of the season and helping someone who's less fortunate or lonely.
    Do your part to make the holidays a safe and happy time for everybody—except criminals.
    After you've opened the gifts
    Burglars know that many households have new, and oftentimes expensive, items in their homes following the December holidays – especially items such as new computers and peripherals, stereo components, televisions, cameras and other electronic equipment.
    In too many cases, residents make it easy for burglars to figure out which homes to target by putting boxes that identify their new gifts in plain view with their other garbage.
    Avoid becoming an easy target for post-holiday burglars by not leaving boxes for new electronics and other items in the alley or other garbage pick-up locations for several days at a time.
    Instead, break down any boxes you are throwing out, put them in garbage bags and place them inside a trash can. (In many cases, especially with computer equipment, you might consider keeping the boxes for safe storage, shipping or moving in the future.)
    Think about keeping broken-down boxes inside – in a garage, for example – until the evening before your regular garbage pick-up. Some burglars actually look inside garbage cans for evidence of holiday gifts.
    And, of course, if you see someone suspicious casing your alley, call the Rolla Police Department’s non-emergency number at 308-1213. If you see a burglary in progress, call 911.
    Take a holiday inventory
    The holidays are a good time to update — or create — your home inventory. Take photos or make videos of items, and list descriptions and serial numbers. If your home is burglarized, having a detailed inventory can help identify stolen items and make insurance claims easier to file.
    Make sure things like TVs, VCRs, stereo equipment, cameras, camcorders, sports equipment, jewelry, silver, computers, home office equipment and power tools are on the list. Remember to check it twice!
    Page 4 of 4 - Celebrate responsibly
    The holiday season is a time of celebration and revelry. Drinking and driving is a danger to everyone on the road. Anyone with a BAC of .08 or higher is in violation of Missouri law and may go to jail.
    Remember that the risk isn't worth it – if you choose to drink alcohol at a party, don't drive. Take a cab, use public transportation or a designated driver, or call a friend or family member.
    Have fun, but remember to celebrate responsibly.
    Have a great week!    
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