FANWOOD/SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The holiday season is one that is usually filled with joy. Unfortunately, sometimes there are individuals who engage in acts that make the season anything but bright. Criminals take advantage of opportunities they see as people shop for presents or travel away from home for more than a day or two.

Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo offers the following advice for holiday shoppers:

Safety Tips While Shopping

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  • Do not leave purchased items visible in the car, put them in the trunk.
  • While shopping in the evening hours may be less crowded, there are also additional potential risks involved. Park in areas of parking lots that have adequate lighting. Consider shopping with someone rather than going alone.
  • Make sure purses and wallets are secure on your person and that you are aware of their location at all times.
  • Keep the amount of available cash you have at a minimum or separate it into different pockets or locations on or about your person. This way all of it is not lost if your purse or wallet is misplaced or stolen.
  • Credit cards offer convenience and security, however, keep track of all cards and keep receipts to compare to your monthly statement.
  • Remain aware of your surroundings at all times and move to and from your vehicle with confidence and "purpose". Have keys ready before getting to your car so you do not have to search for them while standing near it.
  • Report suspicious people or activity to law enforcement immediately.

Chief Trigo also has some words of warning for people who plan to travel:

Home Safety Tips While Away

  • Valuable items, such as televisions, stereos, and computers should be inscribed with an identifying number unique to its owner (do not use your entire Social Security number).
  • Create an up-to-date home inventory including make, model, serial numbers, other detailed descriptions, and photographs of items of value (including jewelry). This inventory should be kept somewhere safe, out of the house.
  • At least two light timers should be set to turn the lights and TV on and off in a logical sequence when away for an extended time period to give the appearance that someone is home.
  • The alarm system (if you have one) should be activated when you leave home.
  • Mail and newspaper deliveries should be stopped or arrangements for a neighbor/friend to pick them up should be made when you are away from home for a period of time.
  • Ask a trusted neighbor to look after your yard, shovel the snow, and watch your home when you are away. Consider having a trusted friend or relative house-sit in your absence.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked when you leave, even if you have an alarm system.

"If you plan on being out of town, please provide the Fanwood Police Department with a completed vacant house form, adds Chief Trigo. "Have a safe and happy holiday season." is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily local news source. Sign up for our free daily eNewsletter and “Like” us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.