MARIETTA - With all the shopping to be done, cookies to be made and relatives to be visited, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
But those cars and houses full of presents make a tempting spread for thieves and it is important not to take small steps that could attract criminals, said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite.
"The biggest mistake people make is putting where you're going to be on social media," he said.
Something as innocuous as tweeting about a trip to the mall lets potential burglars know the house is empty, he said.
"You're basically saying 'Time to break in,'" said Waite.
Cash and jewelry were taken from a Marietta home Monday while the residents were in Florida. Part of the investigation into the burglary of a Marietta home will be assessing who knew the residents were away, said Waite.
Second homes - those that are not the owner's primary residence - are also particularly susceptible to crimes, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
"The vacation homes are very vulnerable. Thieves have a long time to check it out and get inside," he said.
In the three-day span between Nov. 21 and 23, four individuals reported to the Washington County Sheriff's Office that items had been stolen from secondary properties in the area.
One residence - a hunting cabin near Stockport - had a laptop computer, trail camera, digital TV tuner and seven knives stolen.
"Don't leave anything of value in a vacation home," warned Mincks.
If things can not be removed from the home, it is a good idea to have neighbors or friends visit the property on occasion to create the illusion of activity, he said.
"Have people come in and out. Have some activity there. If a thief drives by and there happens to be a car parked there, that may lessen the chance of them breaking in," he said.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office offers a drive-by service to county residents who live outside the city limits, said Mincks. To request sheriff's office drive-bys while out of town, residents can stop into the office at 309 Fourth St. and fill out a form, said Mincks.
Another simple preventative technique is keeping valuables out of sight, said Waite.
This includes hiding the boxes they came in, he added.
"When you get TVs and big appliances, people tend to sit the boxes out by the trash can. Don't do that. It's better to cut the boxes up and put them in the trash," he said.
The same applies to leaving valuable in a vehicle, said Mincks.
A New Matamoras resident reported having nearly $2,000 worth of items stolen from his vehicle overnight.
Those items would have been safer locked in a trunk, hidden from sight, or removed from the car all together, said Mincks.
Protecting packages is another big must, said Waite.
Last year multiple Marietta residents reported packages being stolen from their porch or mailbox and it is likely to happen again this year as the Christmas deliveries start rolling in, said Waite.
"It's best if you can have them delivered somewhere where you're going to be during the day, or have a neighbor or someone you trust pick it up," he said.