Santa Claus helps kick off hol­i­day safety cam­paign

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Caitlin Doorn­bos

None other than Santa Claus, him­self, helped Or­ange County law-en­force­ment agen­cies kick off the 2017 Op­er­a­tion Safe Hol­i­day at the Mall at Mil­lenia on Tues­day.

Af­ter Christ­mas car­ols by the Tim­ber Creek High School choir, Or­ange County Sher­iff Jerry Dem­ings and Or­lando Po­lice De­part­ment Deputy Chief Mark Canty re­minded shop­pers to be ex­tra vig­i­lant dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. Canty en­cour­aged shop­pers to be aware of their sur­round­ings and “re­mem­ber our mantra: ‘If you see some­thing, say some­thing.’ ”

“To keep our com­mu­nity safe, our big­gest part­ner is you,” he said. “I can’t tell you the num­ber of crim­i­nals ar­rested that come from a sim­ple phone call.”

Dem­ings said the gifts and shop­ping that come with the hol­i­day sea­son can in­spire thieves to tar­get fam­i­lies. To pre­vent be­ing vic­tim­ized, he of­fered a few tips:

Lock your ve­hi­cle, and be sure valu­ables are se­cure and out of view. He also sug­gested park­ing in lighted ar­eas and hav­ing keys in hand while re­turn­ing to your car.

Shop with friends and fam­ily. Dem­ings said there’s “safety in num­bers.” Tell se­cu­rity of­fi­cers if you feel un­safe, and re­port unat­tended bags.

He also warned against throw­ing away boxes for “big-ticket” items, such as TVs and other large elec­tron­ics, at your home. Dis­pose of the boxes else­where so bur­glars don’t know what valu­ables you may have in­side.

As part of Op­er­a­tion Safe Hol­i­day, Dem­ings and Canty said law en­force­ment will in­crease its pres­ence around malls and shop­ping cen­ters through the hol­i­day sea­son. With Black Fri­day kick­ing off the shop­ping sea­son next week, of­fi­cials say you can ex­pect to find of­fi­cers in park­ing lots and in stores de­ter­ring crime.

The Sher­iff’s Of­fice also said it will boost so­cial-me­dia ef­forts to of­fer safety tips for the hol­i­days. A video re­leased Tues­day on Twit­ter show­cased the de­part­ment’s K-9 Can­non, who takes down an ac­tor pre­tend­ing to be a purse thief who tar­geted a hol­i­day shop­per.

“We want you to have a happy and safe hol­i­day sea­son,” Dem­ings said.

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