Police warn of holiday hazards

Seasonal cheer can turn quickly to sour disappointment when gifts are stolen from vehicles or someone is arrested for drunk driving.

Area police are issuing warnings about the increased risks of crime as the holiday season goes into overdrive. Few things unsettle peace on earth more than an incident requiring an emergency call to police or other public service agencies.

Lauren Cummings, a community relations specialist with Winchester police, said Thursday an arrest warrant had been issued for a suspect in a series of thefts since Nov. 3 in which vehicle windows were smashed and purses stolen.

“We had eight smash and grabs, and we have warrants for a person in connection with those smash and grabs,” Cummings said.

Cummings described the recent Thanksgiving weekend as “relatively quiet.” Winchester police had extra patrols out on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday.

“It was nothing out of the ordinary,” Cummings said of the weekend police calls. “We’re pleased with that because you never know.”

Front Royal police have assigned extra patrols to the town’s shopping center and downtown business district for the holiday season.

Chief Norman Shiflett warned shoppers in a written statement to lock their cars and keep packages, purses and electronic gear in vehicle trunks out of view of prying eyes.

Shiflett also recommended shoppers keep purses and other items with them instead of placing them in shopping carts where they can be easily snatched.

Front Royal police Sgt. Crystal Cline said the weekend had passed uneventfully except for a couple of shoplifting cases.

“It’ll pick up shortly,” Cline said of thefts reported to police.

Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly recommended: shopping in pairs; parking in a lighted area at night; keeping keys in hand when returning to a vehicle; waiting until the end of the day to make the most expensive purchases so they won’t be left in the vehicle; avoiding carrying large amounts of cash; and talking to children about what to do if they become separated.

Lt. Warren Gosnell of the Traffic Division of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said his agency is conducting extra patrols through New Year’s Day and will set up a sobriety checkpoint on Dec. 13 around the city county line on U.S. 50.

“It’s heartbreaking to drive up to a house all decorated for the holidays, and knock on the door to deliver the terrible news of someone who won’t be coming home tonight or ever,” Gosnell said in a written statement. “So leading up to the holidays, we are really cracking down, and we will show zero tolerance for drunk drivers on the road.”

Gosnell urged partygoers who plan to drink to designate a sober driver before they arrive. Drinkers who do not plan ahead should call a taxi, a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation, Gosnell said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com