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Ogdensburg police: beware of Christmas gift thefts

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The Christmas season is a time for giving and receiving gifts, but to Ogdensburg police it also presents an opportunity for some to do something far less cheerful with the presents — steal them to sell them in order to buy illegal drugs.

Patrolwoman Danielle M. Harte, the department’s Crime Prevention Program/Neighborhood Watch liaison, is urging city residents to be careful at home and with their vehicles where Christmas gifts and other personal property are concerned.

Keep it locked, out of sight and never leave anything in the car.

“The number of crimes throughout the city in regards to criminal mischief to property and vehicle break-ins as well as burglaries of homes is always a concern,” she said. “Never leave your residential doors unlocked, especially during night hours, whether you’re away on vacation, work, or even when you’re sleeping. Whether it’s during the day or during night hours, remember to lock your vehicle doors. Also, never leave any valuables such as money, stereo equipment, merchandise, purses, wallets and Christmas gifts in your vehicles.”

Chief Richard J. Polniak Jr. said Thursday that the annual presence of Christmas gifts gives burglars a potentially lucrative source of barter.

“The vast majority are looking for valuables that they can sell for money so that they can buy drugs,” Mr. Polniak said. “That’s our experience with it.”

The chief said it is myth that the typical Christmastime burglar is often a down-on-his-luck, good soul who steals gifts to give to his children and other family members.

Nor is he likely to be a great negotiator.

“A $200 power drill will be sold for $50,” Mr. Polniak said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Harte is urging residents to take measures to protect their property.

“Leaving such valuables in your vehicles, whether it’s daylight or darkness, whether it’s locked or unlocked, results in the susceptibility of your vehicle being a target,” she said.

Ms. Harte also recommends membership in the Neighborhood Watch program, which encourages residents to call police at 393-1555 if they witness a suspicious activity.

“With the new trends in crimes occurring every day, it will give you the recommendations to protect yourself and your property,” Ms. Harte said. “I cannot guarantee that crime will never affect you in your lifetime. However, with my recommendations and notifications to anyone who is interested to participate in this up and running program, I hope to reduce the chance that crime will happen to you.”

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