COLUMN: Safety tips for holiday shopping

Submitted photo.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.

On behalf of your Sheriff’s Office, I want to extend everybody a Happy Thanksgiving. This Thursday, when we’re all gathered around with our families and friends, let’s be sure and offer up a heartfelt thanks for everything we’ve been given and for all of the blessings we enjoy. Celebrating Thanksgiving is a long time American tradition and national holiday, and this week will see many of us traveling to see loved ones, overindulging in all of the holiday food, watching football games and starting on our Christmas shopping if we haven’t already.

If you do get out shopping, remember that the stores will be crowded and it’s easy to get distracted by everything that’s going on. Don’t walk off and leave your purse in a shopping cart; you need to keep it in sight at all times. Make sure you get receipts on your purchases, check them and keep them. Be aware of your surroundings and who all’s around you; if you see someone or something suspicious, find a store clerk or security officer and let them know.

If you take packages out to your car, lock them in the trunk. Don’t leave them out in view on the car seats because it takes no time at all for a thief to knock a window out and ruin your holiday.

If you’re shopping online, be sure and keep your computer’s security and virus software up to date and your passwords strong and secure to help prevent your downloading malware onto your computer if you happen to land on a fake website. If you didn’t know, you’re able to get a free annual credit report from each credit bureau and it’s a good idea to review those reports before the end of the year to see if something’s shown up on them you didn’t know about.

It’s never a good idea to post information and pictures on social media about the presents you’ve bought, just like it’s not a good idea to publish your travel plans on the Internet. If you’re going out of town, take precautions like having your mail and newspapers stopped. Put your lights on timers and have a trusted neighbor keep an eye on your place if you don’t have a house sitter. If you live out in the county, call us for an extra patrol – and let us know who has permission to be on your place and what vehicle they drive.

I’d like to remind everyone of the Ellis County Employee Toy Drive that’s under way. We’re collecting toys and gift cards at many of our county offices through Nov. 30. Deputies and troopers will also be on hand Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, outside of the Walmart stores in Ennis, Midlothian and Waxahachie. They’ll be taking up donations that will all stay here in the county and benefit the children at the Texas Baptist Home for Children and the Presbyterian Children’s Home.

Please, everyone, let’s keep our military and service personnel in our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy our rights and freedoms because of their service and safekeeping of our great nation. Y’all have a Blessed Week.

Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.