Asheville Police share winter holiday safety tips to deter crime

Santa hands with present


Asheville Police Department


This holiday season, don’t let the spirit of giving lull you into giving thieves a chance to do their dirty work. Homes jam-packed with glittering gifts. Stores, malls, and downtown streets teeming with unsuspecting shoppers. People rushing around, stressed out and careless, looking for last-minute gifts, trying to get everything done. It’s enough to make a crook giddy with holiday joy.


All this celebrating can pose other risks for you and your family as well. Whether it’s extra cars on the road, holiday parties serving holiday cheer, or the possibility of winter weather in the forecast. Here are some tips on how to celebrate safely this holiday season.


If you are traveling

  • Get an automatic timer for your lights at home.
  • 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.
  • Check the weather forecast. You never know when snow, ice, or sleet could hit us here in Western North Carolina!
  • Plan ahead and buckle up. There will be more cars on the road this time of year.


When 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.


When you are shopping

  • Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Park in a well-lit 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. 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.


Celebrate responsibly — don’t drink and drive

The holiday season is a time of celebration and revelry. Drinking and driving is a danger to everyone on the road. Remember that the risk isn’t worth it—if you choose to drink alcohol at a party, don’t drive. Designate a sober driver, use a rideshare program such as Uber or Lyft, call a cab, or use public transit.


Protect your vehicle

  • Loading up on gifts can mean you’ve had a successful holiday shopping excursion, 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, cell phones or briefcases—may tempt a thief.
  • Help prevent your vehicle from being stolen by always locking your car. And although it’s cold, never leave your vehicle running while you run inside your home or a store—even if only for a minute or two.


If a stranger comes to the door

  • Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts, so be cautious when accepting a package.
  • 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 instead.


After you’ve opened the gifts

Burglars know that many households have new, and oftentimes expensive, items in their homes following the December holidays. 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 driveway or other garbage pick-up locations for several days at a time. Instead, break down any boxes you are throwing out and put them inside a recycling can as close to the time of your garbage pick-up as possible. 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 something suspicious or if you see a burglary in progress, call 9-1-1 or the Asheville Police Department’s non-emergency number at 828-252-1110.


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. Learn more about making a home inventory on APD’s web page.
  • Make sure things like TVs, stereo equipment, cameras, camcorders, sports equipment, jewelry, computers, home office equipment, and power tools are on the list. Remember to check it twice!


Holiday package theft

  • Track deliveries online and confirm delivery has occurred. You can sign up for email notifications to track your packages from initial shipment to its arrival at your home, or the recipient’s address if you have the gift delivered directly.
  • If you know a family member or neighbor will be home, ask them to pick up the packages as soon as they are delivered. Reward them with fresh baked cookies.
  • Switch the delivery location to your work, if possible, where it can be received by someone and not left on the porch.
  • See if the post office or store the product is being shipped from can hold the package for pick up.
  • The post office will allow your package to remain safe and secure for up to 30 days.


Enjoy the season!

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.