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Police Issue Safety Reminders
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Black Friday is just around the corner and while that signals the start of the holiday shopping season for some, it means the start of a crime spree for others.

Escalon Police are issuing a reminder to residents to take extra care over the next few weeks in protecting their vehicles and possessions, not giving thieves the opportunity to strike.

"Because of the economic downturn, some citizens are being forced to do things they wouldn't normally do," explained Escalon Police Chief Doug Dunford. "People need to be more vigilant. If they see suspicious activity, give us a call. Historically we always see an increase in crime at this time of year."

One of the areas that is of most concern, Dunford said, is people starting their cars to warm them up on these chilly mornings. In many cases, people will start the car, then go back in the house to finish getting ready for work, leaving the vehicle idling in the driveway. That, he said, is too great a temptation.

"Don't turn your car on and leave it running, that's just inviting vehicle theft," he said. "We had a case here recently, less than five minutes after he (theft victim) started the vehicle, it was gone."

While it may not be as comfortable to sit in your car to warm it up, Dunford said it is better than filing a stolen vehicle report.

"A lot of the crimes we have are crimes of opportunity," he added. "So we are telling people to 'harden the target' by holding onto their purse a little closer, locking the car, putting any valuable items in the trunk, out of sight."

Even though Escalon remains a 'small town,' Dunford said it is not immune to outside influences and people can do things to protect themselves against being a victim of theft.

Making sure to lock vehicles routinely, as well as keeping garage doors closed and homes locked can go a long way to deterring crime. Never leave valuables in your car in plain sight; many laptops, wallets, cell phones and the like have been taken from vehicles because they are in plain view and easily accessible.

Dunford also said residents can take an active role in helping keep the community safe by alerting police if they notice anything suspicious.

"No matter how trivial they think it is, call us, that's what we're paid to do is to go out and look for that suspicious activity," he said. "Something trivial may turn in to something a lot bigger."

Residents shouldn't hesitate to call, he said, because police want to be proactive in the fight against crime, working to deter it before it happens.