PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - It's the holiday season again, and the Presidio of Monterey Police Department wants to wish everyone a safe and merry holiday.

We would also like to share some useful information and tips to help avoid property thefts this holiday season.

For the property thief, the decision to commit a crime is a risk versus reward exercise. The risk of committing this crime is the chance of getting caught, losing the property and possibly their freedom. The reward is the perceived benefit obtained upon successful completion of the crime.
A good security plan will address this concept by using crime-prevention measures that will increase the perpetrator's perception of being caught (risk), while diminishing their perceived value of their target (reward).

Those arrested for property crimes are usually male, and are between 18-21 years of age. Studies show that most property criminals live near their target areas and are familiar with the neighborhood. It is an important comfort factor for them to know the terrain, the layout, and all the potential escape routes. They will usually work the property on foot, unless they need a vehicle to transport the stolen merchandise. Sometimes, the property criminal will have lived in the target community or have a friend who is a current resident.

Property criminals view a community differently than a new residential prospect looking for a place to live. For property thieves, it's more like going shopping and looking at the various items available to steal. They have a choice where and when they will commit a crime. If the thieves don't like the merchandise or the shopping experience at your property, they will go elsewhere.

For them, the available targets equate to money. The things they steal can be converted to money or can be used so they don't have to spend their own money for the same things. Property crimes are usually one of stealth, where the criminal does not want a confrontation or be identified.

However, it is possible that the property criminal may become violent if the opportunity presents itself or if surprised, cornered or captured. The best way to avoid the latter is to make a community atmosphere that is so unappealing to the thief that they go elsewhere to "shop."

Tips to remember:
*Lock your car and close your windows. You would be surprised how many cars are actually left unlocked, and thus make for easy pickings. Even in the summer, it is better to keep your windows shut, since it only takes a few minutes with them open to air out the car.

*Park in a safe place. Well-lit parking spots leave your car much more visible than a spot hidden away in a dark corner or carport. The closer you park to street lights or pedestrian traffic, the more likelihood it will scare someone off from trying to break in given the inherent risk of getting detected.

*Know what you can leave in your car and what to take with you. Purses, briefcases and backpacks are tempting since they usually hold things of value, are very portable and are usually generic enough that no one would think they are out of place walking away from your car.

*Hide anything that you leave behind, either underneath one of the car seats or in the trunk. Items such as GPS devises, iPods, MP3 players, cell phones all attract thieves looking for an easy mark.

*A flashing LED can be mistaken for a more expensive alarm system. This can scare off a thief who is looking for an easier target.

Points to ponder:
*A criminal's motivation to commit a theft is at its lowest level during the first visit to the property; however, that doesn't mean that they won't take advantage of an "OMG, it was way too easy" situation they may encounter.

*Criminal motivation increases with familiarity of the property. Success, in committing crimes on a property, will increase the level of motivation to continue to commit more crimes.

*It is three times more difficult to deter a criminal who has been successfully committing crimes on your property, than it is before they even start. Success bolsters confidence.

One of the best ways to address lower levels of criminal motivation is by being security conscious.

Secure all of your property and valuables, especially the easily spotted, taken, and used/sold items.

A thief will view the appearance of a vigilant and secure neighborhood (and neighbors) as a serious deterrent, and will ultimately choose another property or neighborhood to victimize.

Thieves want to blend inconspicuously into a community as they victimize and case it out.

If they get uncomfortable, if there is a greater danger of them getting caught, or if there is basically little or nothing to take, they simply go elsewhere.

One last note, if you happen to be going away for the holidays, there is always the opportunity to contact the Presidio of Monterey Police Station and initiate a "housing check." A housing check ensures that your home is physically checked at least twice a day by on duty police officers, which is an additional deterrence against theft.

To initiate a housing check, stop by the POM Police Station to fill out a brief request or call at 831-242-7851 for more information.