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Volume 71, Issue 61, Tuesday, November 22, 2005


UHPD offers tips on keeping season safe

By Rachael Seeley
Senior Staff Writer

The holiday season is a peak time for home burglaries, thefts and muggings. Just as students are gearing up for some time off from classes, thieves are getting ready to pull some overtime.

UH Police Department officials said in an e-mail to The Daily Cougar that there are a few simple safety tips students should follow in order to reduce their chances of becoming victims.

Criminals prefer to prey on easy victims, so students should refrain from turning their automobile into easy window-shopping opportunities for thieves, by locking shopping bags out of sight in the trunk when store-hopping.

If students must shop after dark, they should bring a friend along and park in a well-lit area. The students should be aware of their surroundings while walking to their car and have their keys out and ready to prevent wasting time digging in their purse or pockets in dark parking lots. If they don't feel safe walking to the car alone, they shouldn't hesitate to ask a store security guard to escort them, officials said.

Students should refrain from carrying large amounts of cash while shopping and make purchases with credit or debit cards instead. They should lay the contents of their wallet out on a copy machine and copy the fronts and backs of credit, debit and identification cards so the numbers will be handy if a thief snatches their purse or wallet.

To avoid being labeled as a wealthy target, condense items into shopping bags from cheaper stores and be sure to keep a close eye on bags while you're stuffing your face in the food court.

If they are planning on taking a road-trip, students should allot plenty of driving time to prevent rushing and speeding, give close friends and family members an itinerary, as well as keep in contact with them while on the road in case of an emergency.

A little routine car maintenance can save students hours of being stranded on the side of the road, officials said. Students should tune-up their cars before leaving and be sure to check the air pressure in their spare tire to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the road. 

Students should also make sure to get plenty of rest before making long drives and shouldn't take off if they're feeling sleepy.

If students plan on drinking at a holiday shindig, they should choose a designated driver before the event and always wear their seatbelt. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, 1,709 people were killed in alcohol-related automobile crashes in Texas in 2003 and 63,500 more suffered injuries. That means nearly five people die and 174 more are injured by drunk-drivers every day. Texas leads the United States in alcohol-related highway deaths.

Back at home, students shouldn't advertise big-ticket purchases to thieves, officials said. This can be done by leaving opened boxes on the curb for the garbage collector, so instead, break up boxes and stuff them into dark colored trash bags. They should double check that windows and doors are securely locked at all times and leave on lights or a television to deter thieves while they are away.

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