By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 21, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As the pinnacle of the holiday season approaches, people tend to let their guard down, but officials want to remind people to remain vigilant when it comes to their personal safety both on and off the installation.
Personal operational security is something many tend to take for granted, especially around the holiday season, said Terrence Clark, plans and operations specialist, adding that although it's the season for giving, people need to keep their guard up.
"People have got to be mindful and they've got to be smart," Clark said. "There are a lot of people out there that want to do you harm."
Because of this, Clark said it's important that people keep an eye out for certain things while they are out doing their holiday shopping or simply enjoying the holiday season, and one of the big things people need to be on the lookout for are "shoulder surfers."
Shoulder surfers can be any individual with a camera on their phone or even their watch that can take photos of credit cards or ATM cards while people are making a purchase or withdrawing money out of an ATM, said the plans and operations specialist.
"Be cognizant of other people around you with cell phones when using your ATM cards," he said, adding that when they get their receipts from machines or purchases, they should dispose of them properly rather than nonchalantly toss them.
"A lot of times when people get their credit card receipts, they'll ball them up and throw them away, and people need to be aware that their credit card receipts do carry some of your personal information, so you need to take it with you and destroy it properly," said Clark.
Another holiday OSPEC faux pas is carrying large amounts of cash, he said. Although the holiday season calls for increased shopping, carrying large amounts of cash can make people a target for thieves, but if one must carry cash, Clark suggests people carry only what they need.
"If you're carrying large amounts of cash, you don't want to put it all in one place -- try to separate it," he said. "You don't want to broadcast the fact that you have a large amount of cash on you -- it's the wrong thing to do."
Also, after making large purchases after a day of shopping, Clark suggests that people store their items out of sight, such as in the trunk of their car. Around this time of year, thieves patrol parking lots for cars that might have recently purchased items stored in plain view, he said.
Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker community police chief, added that this also goes for people's purses and wallets.
"If you are carrying purses, watch your purse, even if you're in your car and you're just outside pumping gas in the car, make sure you have eyes on your purse and your wallet," said the police chief.
Additionally, when finding a parking space, Clark suggests that people make sure they park in a well-lit area that might deter a thief from trying to break into their vehicle.
After the shopping is complete and people return home, Dumais maintains that people shouldn't let their guard down simply because they're home -- houses can become prime targets for criminals during the holidays.
Although burglaries are a rarity on post, people should do what they can to stave off any thieves by properly storing their items out of site and taking precautions when disposing of their holiday trash, said the police chief.
"For those who live on post, specifically in Allen Heights, don't store high-value items under your car ports," he said. "They don't have a garage, so people should make sure to put their high-value items inside their quarters or in their storage buildings," adding that although it may look nice to have their tree and presents on display in their windows, it can serve as an open invitation for thieves.
"I also recommend that you break down your boxes after Christmas if you decide to put them off to the side of the road," said the police chief. "Break down that 60-inch TV box so that it's not a big neon sign outside your house asking (for someone) to come steal it."
In recent years, rather than brave the throngs of shoppers, many people have turned to online, shopping and having their packages delivered to their homes, which can leave people open to what Clark calls "snatch and grab" theft.
"When delivery services deliver packages on the doorstep, there are those who will run up and grab the package and run off," he said, recommending that people invest in home security systems with surveillance cameras to deter potential thieves.
Also, if people are traveling during the season, Clark said people should take steps to make sure their homes are safe while they are away.
"When traveling, leave some lights on at home or put your lights on a timer to give the appearance that someone is home," he said.
Dumais urges people to refrain from posting travel plans on social media, as well, which can be an open invite for criminals to come into their homes while they're away.
"Don't advertise if you're taking a trip around the holidays on social media," said the police chief. "What you're doing is just ringing the doorbell for the thieves to come and rob your house, basically.
"Watch what you post, as well," he continued. "Posting that you just got 60-inch TV to social media might not be the brightest thing you do, so be cautious of what you're putting up on social media and what your kids put on social media, also."
To help residents on Fort Rucker feel safer, the Directorate of Public Safety offers a quarters check program. Residents can visit Bldg. 5001 on Lucky Star St. to sign up for quarters checks, and DPS officials will visit their home during the day or night to make sure there aren't any issues.