LIVONIA, Mich., Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The holiday season is upon us and shoppers throughout the state are in search of the perfect gift. But this hectic season often attracts opportunistic criminals, as distracted holiday shoppers are easy targets for vehicle break-ins, carjackings and other auto theft-related crimes.
Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.) is Michigan's statewide auto theft prevention program that coordinates citizen action with law enforcement agencies through a 24/7, confidential toll-free tip line (1-800-242-HEAT) and website (1800242HEAT.com). H.E.A.T. reports that an increased number of auto theft-related crimes occur during the holiday season, and urges shoppers to consider a few simple safety tips to prevent falling victim to auto theft during the holiday season.
"December marks the busiest time of year for most consumers as they shop and cross items off their to-do lists, but don't let that distract you from keeping your vehicle and possessions safe," said Terri Miller, executive director of H.E.A.T. "The holiday season is always a special time of year, but many consumers become careless and vulnerable to theft and holiday crime. It's important to remain diligent and be aware of your surroundings."
The following tips from H.E.A.T. will help shoppers to be more prepared and aware this holiday season:
- Be alert. As you approach your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings. Remember where your car is parked and walk directly to it. Avoid talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages as it can be a distraction and can make you an easy target to criminals.
- Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas. Try to avoid shopping alone after dark, but if you must, park in a well-lit area with pedestrian traffic or in a lot with an attendant. If possible, avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area such as dumpsters, bushes, large vans or trucks and avoid parking next to cars with dark tinted windows that you cannot see through.
- Ask for help. If you are alone and don't feel comfortable walking to your car, don't hesitate to ask retail security personnel for an escort to your vehicle.
- Place valuables and purchases in the trunk or out of sight. Do not leave packages on the seat of your car as it creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in your vehicle, lock it in the trunk or place items out of sight.
- Move your car. Move to another area of the parking lot if you return to your car in the middle of a shopping trip, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter a thief who may have been watching you unload your purchases.
- Use common sense. Never leave your car unlocked or your vehicle running unattended, even if you are just going into a store for a quick errand.
- Unload passengers first when arriving home. Criminals are getting bolder about approaching people in their driveways. Take children and elderly relatives into the house first, then immediately unload all purchases from your car. Never leave vulnerable loved ones alone in a vehicle, even if you will only be gone "for a minute."
- If threatened by a carjacker, GIVE UP THE CAR. Most carjackings involve a weapon so don't resist or argue. You are more important than your vehicle, purse, wallet or other valuable. Give them up and get out of harm's way.
- If you witness an auto theft, carjacking in progress, or anything suspicious, call the police immediately. If you have any information regarding auto theft, insurance fraud or carjackings call H.E.A.T.'s 24/7 confidential tip reward line at 1-800-242-H.E.A.T to register your tip after you have informed local law enforcement.
H.E.A.T. works with Michigan law enforcement agencies to follow-up on tips. Tipsters are awarded up to $1,000 if the tip leads to the arrest of or issuance of a warrant for a suspected car thief or a person suspected of auto theft-related insurance fraud. H.E.A.T. rewards up to $2,000 for information leading to the issuance of a warrant for a carjacking suspect. Rewards of up to $10,000 are issued if a tip results in the arrest and binding over for trial of a suspected theft ring or chop shop operators. The H.E.A.T. tip line is monitored by the Michigan State Police and funded by Michigan's auto insurance companies.