Crime rate increases during the holidays

Crime rates increase during the holidays. Many thefts are preventable by changing common practices like being aware of your surroundings, planning your shopping routes, and not leaving packages on your doorsteps.

The holidays are an exciting time of year, but a new survey shows pressures and changes in routines can leave inattentive Arizona homeowners and shoppers vulnerable to disaster.

According to Allstate Insurance Company, fire and theft claims are higher during the holiday season than any other time of year.

The survey shows that theft in Arizona rises substantially as the year winds down. When compared to the national average, Arizonans are 45.79 percent more likely to file a theft claim around Christmas time.

“According to our poll, celebrating the holidays is important to the majority of Arizona consumers,” said Tucson Allstate agency owner Keith Duncan. “It’s natural to get excited and go the extra mile to make this time special for your loved ones, but also beware of potential mishaps, and protect your holiday home.”

It is estimated that 71 percent of Arizona consumers leave delivered packages outside their home, drawing attention to valuable gifts. Others will leave gifts in plain sight in the passenger seat of their car. Open windows revealing presents around a Christmas tree can also serve as incentive for burglars, particularly given the fact that 52 percent of survey respondents say they are at least occasionally traveling overnight during the holidays, leaving their homes more susceptible to risk. 

The good news, according to Oro Valley Police Department spokesperson Lt. Kara Riley, is that many thefts are preventable by changing common practices.  

“When shopping, know your route,” said Riley. “Know where you parked, and have your hands free when coming out of the store, with keys in hand. If you are leaving one business and going to another, make sure to keep gifts in the trunk or out of plain sight.”

If a package is being delivered when you won’t be home to receive it, Riley recommends asking a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out for it. 

Next to theft, occurrences of fire-related incidents also pose a threat during the holidays. 

According to Allstate’s survey, fire claims generally increase by about four percent. This is often the result of individuals trying new cooking or decorating techniques. There are three times more turkey fryer claims during the holiday season than any other time per year, with a median claim cost of $29,000. 

“There is a lot of activity taking place during the holidays, and most of it is in the kitchen,” said Northwest Fire District spokesman Adam Goldberg. “Use caution with open flames on hot stoves, and never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking, especially if using oil or grease. Knives should also be secured, pots and pans should have their handles facing the right way, and common combustibles should not be placed too close to a hot stove.”

Just as important as kitchen safety are precautions used while traveling, Goldberg said. 

“Before traveling, ensure you get a full night’s rest,” he said. “Make sure your vehicle is mechanically sound, particularly the tires.”

If traveling with children to someone else’s home, particularly if they don’t have children, make sure no prescription drugs or other objects are laying around that may otherwise be considered unsafe. 

When it comes to fire safety, Goldberg says to be sure not to overload outlets with decorations or lights. If placing decorations outside, only use outdoor power strips that have a circuit breaker built in. If placing decorations on the rooftop, ensure a partner is spotting you, and that the ladder is on a flat, stable surface. 

Christmas trees should be continuously watered. If they dry out, they should be removed from the home, particularly since faulty decorations or lights can easily cause a fire with a dry tree. Christmas tree-related fires come with some of the most costly claims, with a median cost of more than $100,000. The most expensive claim to date took place in 2008 when an artificial tree caught fire in someone’s living room. The claim was for $2.4 million.

“As you are stringing lights to the tree, ensure there are no frayed wires or broken bulbs,” said Goldberg. “Only use decorations as are recommended by the manufacturer.”

Candles are one of the most common causes of holiday-related fires. The week of Christmas is among the top three weeks for candle-related claims, which on average cost about $50,000. 

Goldberg recommends never letting candles burn through the night, and, when lit, to keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

As more parties and get-togethers surface during the holiday season, Goldberg and Riley remind drivers to never drink and drive.

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