Crime Prevention Topics

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Identity Theft

Victims of identity theft will spend months or years and thousands of dollars to repair the damage to their credit record.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you should immediately:

Contact your local police department - Harrisonburg Police Department Contact Information
Call the Identity Theft Hot-line at 1-877-438-4338

Protect your identity by:
Ordering a copy of your credit record from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Make sure it is accurate and close any accounts that are not currently in use.

Credit Bureaus:
Equifax -

Experian -

TransUnion -


  • Avoid using easy to guess passwords such as your mother's maiden name, part of your social security number, phone number or consecutive numbers.
  • Secure personal information in your home if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home.
  • Remove your social security numbers from your checks.
  • Change your driver's license to a random number instead of your social security number.
  • Guard your mail: shred documents with identifying information, promptly remove mail from your mailbox, use Post Office Drop Boxes rather than leaving your mail sitting in your box.
  • Don't carry your social security card - store it in a safe place.
  • Be wary of promotional scams. Con-artists may use these to get and use your personal information.
  • Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work.
  • Pay attention to your credit card billing cycles. A missing bill could indicate fraudulent use of your card. The billing address may have been changed to cover the fraudulent use.

Internet safety:

  • Use a secure Internet browser that will scramble or encrypt your personal information.
  • When buying items on a website, visual cues, such as an unbroken key or locked lock, report to the user that the online service is secure through a given page.
  • Use a firewall program, especially when using high-speed Internet.
  • Do not download files or click on hyper-links sent to you by strangers.
  • Update your virus protection regularly.
  • When discarding old computers, erase the hard-drive to delete your personal information.

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Vacation Safety Tips

While away on vacation:

  • Most importantly: make your house appear that someone is always home.
  • Do not stop your mail and newspaper. Have a trusted neighbor pick them up each day.
  • Have your blinds and curtains open during the day, and closed at night.
  • On garbage pickup day, have a neighbor take out your trash containers.
  • If you have a second car, leave it in the driveway. A car in the driveway tells the potential burglar that someone may be home.
  • If you have a garage door with an electric opener, unplug it and also make sure that you lock it.
  • Use timers on lights, radios, TV's, etc., and set them to go on and off at different times.
  • Turn off the ringers on your phones.
  • If you're going to be gone for any length of time, make arrangements to have your lawn mowed.

Personal safety while on vacation:

  • Carry your purse close to your body, your wallet in an inside pocket.
  • Watch out for staged mishaps like someone bumping into you or spilling a drink. Often it is a ploy to divert your attention.
  • Avoid displaying expensive cameras, jewelry, or luggage that might draw attention.
  • Your aim should be to blend into the crowd.
  • Park in well-lighted areas, have your car keys ready when you approach your car, and check the back seat and floors before you get in.
  • Never leave your luggage unattended.
  • Before taking a cab, ask the hotel staff about directions and estimated costs.

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Vehicle Theft Prevention

  • Take Your Keys. One out of every five vehicles stolen had the keys in it.
  • Lock Your Car. Approximately half of all vehicles stolen were left unlocked.
  • Never Hide a Second Set of Keys in Your Car. Extra keys can easily be found if a thief takes time to look.
  • Park in Well-Lighted Areas.
  • Park in Attended Lots. Auto thieves do not like witnesses and prefer unattended parking lots.
  • If You Park in an Attended Lot, Leave Only the Ignition/Door Key. If your trunk and glove box use the same key as the door, have one of them changed. Don't give the attendant easy access to your glove box and trunk. Upon returning, check the tires, spare and battery to insure they are the same as those you had when you parked.
  • Never Leave Your Car Running, Even if You'll Only Be Gone for a Minute. Vehicles are commonly stolen at convenience stores, gas stations, ATM's, etc. Many vehicles are also stolen on cold mornings when the owner leaves the vehicle running to warm up.
  • Completely Close Car Windows When Parking. Don't make it any easier for the thief to enter your vehicle.
  • Don't Leave Valuables in Plain View. Don't make your car a more desirable target for thieves by leaving valuables in plain sight.

Investing in Vehicle Protection

  • Ignition Kill Switch. Splice an inexpensive toggle switch into your ignition wire or to your starter. The trick is hiding the switch well. Keypads, pressure pads and more expensive "Immobilizers" and "Passkeys" can also be used.
  • Fuel Kill Switch. The valve that halts the fuel supply is closed.
  • Visible Steering Wheel Lock. Prevents the steering wheel from being turned.
  • Floorboard Locks. Devices that disable the gas or brake pedal.
  • Gearshift Locks. Disables shifting of the transmission.
  • Tire/Wheel Locks. Prevents the vehicle from moving.
  • Hood Locks. Prevents the thief from gaining access to your security system and battery.
  • Armored Collar Around the Steering Column. Protects the column and ignition.
  • Alarms. Security systems which make loud warning sounds when doors/hood/trunk are opened. Optional sensors detect glass breakage, motion, tampering, and towing. Panic buttons, back-up batteries, flashing parking lights or headlights, and automatic engine-disable features are also popular.
  • Vehicle Tracking. Transmitter hidden in car enables police to track car (may not be available in all areas).

Some car insurance companies may give you a discount for certain anti-theft devices. Check with your agent for details.

When Shopping For a Vehicle

  • Be suspicious of any deal that seems "too good to be true."
  • When buying from a private individual, make sure that the title and registration match the name and address of the person selling the car.
  • Be cautious of a seller with no fixed address, place of employment or phone number.
  • Ask the seller for references about past financing and insurance on the vehicle. Verify the information with the bank, finance company, or agent.
  • Ensure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate on the automobile's dash is present, secure, and has no loose rivets.
  • Check to ensure the VIN plate has not been repainted and the numbers stamped in the plate appear to be the original factory numbers.
  • Thieves may remove the VIN plate and replace it with one from a similar wrecked vehicle. If in doubt about plate authenticity, check with a new car dealer who handles the same model, or contact a law enforcement agency.

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Halloween Safety Tips

  • An adult should always supervise young children.
  • Older children should always trick-or-treat in groups and let an adult know where they are going.
  • Trick-or-treat only at the homes of people that you know.
  • Trick-or-treat only in well-lit areas where others are present.
  • Always have an adult check candy for any signs of tampering before eating.
  • Choose a light colored costume for easy visibility.
  • Choose face makeup rather than a mask so your vision will not be blocked.
  • Make sure costumes are short enough that they will not pose a tripping hazard.
  • Wear reflective clothing or carry a light stick or flashlight.
  • Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
  • Cross streets only at intersections.

Research alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating, look into alternatives like:

  • Shopping mall or store events
  • Church sponsored events
  • Community events

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