PARKERSBURG - With the Christmas season getting under way, local officials offer some words of advice for area residents.
Parkersburg police Sgt. Greg Collins said thefts from vehicles are always a problem during the holiday season.
"People should utilize a trunk to hold all valuables while shopping," he said.
Collins said trunks are a great place to store backpacks, purses, GPS units and other electronics while shoppers are at the mall or making rounds to various stores. Keeping these items visible in broad daylight while a car is left unattended in a parking lot can be a great opportunity for criminals. Collins advises the public to be aware of their surroundings while taking part in the shopping season.
"(Shoppers) should carry a minimal amount of cash and refrain from wearing flashy, expensive jewelry," he said.
People should quickly report suspicious persons or activity to local law enforcement, Collins said.
In the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, property crime included burglaries, larceny-thefts, motor vehicle thefts and arson.
According to FBI statistics in 2011, there were over nine million property crime offenses throughout the nation. A two-year trend showed that property crimes have decreased 0.5 percent in 2011 compared with the estimates from 2010. In 2011, the rate of property crimes was 11.2 percent lower than 2007 and 19.9 percent lower than the 2002 rate.
In total, property crimes last year resulted in estimated losses of $15.6 billion, according to the crime statistics.
In 2010, West Virginia crime property crime rates were at over 2,000 incidents of crime per 100,000 residents. According to the West Virginia Law Enforcement Agency Uniform Crime reports, burglaries were just over 550 per 100,000 residents while thefts were listed just over 1,500 per 100,000 residents.
While maintaining an awareness regarding possible crimes, local residents are also being urged to be safe in other areas.
The Parkersburg Fire Department urges residents to remain safe and fire-free over the holiday season.
"Have working smoke alarms and check them before preparing large meals," said chief fire inspector Capt. Tim Flinn. "With the holidays coming up, the fire department stresses to keep safety in mind."
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 35 home candle fires are reported per day. The top three days for home candle fires from 2005-2009 were Christmas Eve, Christmas day and New Year's Eve.
Don't hang combustible materials near curtains, windows or registers, said Flinn. The flow of air can cause the candle to re-ignite or tip over. He recommends also making sure candles are a safe distance away from children and pets.
"We have had several fires involving pets that have tipped over candles," he said.
Keep heat sources away from flammable materials and make sure flashlights and battery-powered lights are on hand should a power outage occur. Flinn advises residents to purchase gifts such as fire extinguishers for someone who may not have one already.
"It sounds funny to mention, but a fire extinguisher can make a great gift for someone who needs one," Flinn said.
Of course residents should make sure heat sources are always a safe distance away from combustible materials such as sheets and blankets, he said.