Bee Investigator

To keep your holiday cheer, avoid becoming a victim of theft

There are some people who refuse to admit they are wrong or accept advice.

Those people won’t benefit from this column and are the types easily offended by law enforcement’s efforts to prevent them from becoming victims during the holiday shopping season.

Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Heather Graves said one woman became defensive recently when she advised her not to leave her car running while she went to get coffee. And there are always a few people each year who don’t appreciate the courtesy notices officers, cadets and police volunteers leave on the windshields of cars in which valuables are clearly visible.

But the majority of people who get the notices are receptive to the message and happy to learn the notice isn’t a ticket. Graves said she thinks they have been helping people change their habits.

On Friday, Cadet Tajinder Dhami left the friendly reminders on more than half the cars parked in the Chili’s parking lot at Vintage Faire Mall.

Some were minor infractions – cellphone cords left plugged in, glasses tucked inside the visor – but others were packed with valuables.

There were cellphones sitting in cupholders, purses on floorboards, keys in center consoles and clipboards and file folders full of documents with presumably sensitive information that can be used for identify theft. Two cars had employment records, one an employee badge hanging from a rear-view mirror and the other documents with the letterhead of a Stanislaus County department.

One vehicle had seven bags piled in the seats.

Even concealing the items in a nondescript bag isn’t a deterrent, Dhami said; it just makes the thief more curious. Kind of like how I used my coat to cover my purse. “People know there is something under it,” Dhami told me.

He said crooks usually case a parking lot, then pick one or two cars to break into before making a getaway.

Here are some tips for how to keep the Grinch from stealing your possessions and your Christmas cheer:

▪ Lock your doors and keep all valuables out of sight. If you must leave valuables in your car, use the trunk or, with SUVs and hatchbacks, fold down the seats and tuck items underneath.

▪ Avoid carrying a purse by just putting what you need in pockets. If you carry a purse, wear one with a strap long enough to go across your chest or keep it snug against your body near your armpit.

▪ Don’t leave your purse in shopping carts unattended, either in the store or while loading bags into your car. Graves said Modesto police last year had several incidents of crooks snatching purses from carts or even from women’s shoulders as they drove through a parking lot.

▪ Shop during the day whenever possible or park in well-lighted areas. Have your keys ready before getting to your car.

▪ Don’t let shipped presents sit on your doorstep while you are at work all day. When ordering online, opt to require a signature to receive the package or carefully track the shipping. Some companies offer to send text or email notifications when your package is delivered. Or have your packages delivered to your work or the home of a friend or neighbor you know will be home.

▪ Leave your house locked and well-lighted. If you are going to be gone for more than a day, have neighbors pick up your mail, newspapers and packages.

▪ Never leave your car running unattended. People often like to get their cars warmed up before hopping in, but it makes for the perfect crime of opportunity.

Have a question for the Bee Investigator? Call 209-578-2366 or email