Many Alachua County citizens enjoy having a decorated Christmas tree merrily twinkling as the centerpiece for holiday parties or that Christmas morning present opening frenzy. However, for those who prefer a live over an artificial tree, please remember that watering is essential. According to the National Fire Protection Association, dry, neglected Christmas trees cause approximately 240 fires annually, resulting in an average of 21 deaths, 27 injuries and more than $25 million in property damage. A tree can be completely ablaze within 3 seconds of ignition and the entire room can be engulfed within 40 seconds, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Preventing holiday burglaries involves reducing opportunities for criminal activity. If you are shopping at the last minute, store packages out of sight in the trunk of your car. Once you get home, keep your house and garage secured. Lock sheds so burglars cannot use any tools they may contain to break into your home. If you are away at a holiday party, make it look like you are really at home by keeping lights on. Leave your curtains drawn. While it may be tempting to show off that tree through the window, doing so also shows off all those presents under the tree. After Christmas, do not place all the high dollar item boxes at the curb for the garbage truck. Cut up those boxes and dispose of them in garbage bags so the thieves can not tell what has been added to your home.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office continues to receive calls from citizens who have been targeted by suspects representing themselves as agents from local businesses such as Gainesville Regional Utilities, Clay Electric, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and most recently Walmart in an effort to secure payment with a prepaid Green Dot Visa gift card. In a recent case involving the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, a citizen was notified that they had an active Alachua County warrant and needed to send a prepaid Green Dot Visa gift card in the amount of $1000.00 to resolve the warrant. In another case, the suspect represented themselves as Walmart and told the citizen that there was a problem with their layaway and that in order to resolve that balance they needed to send a prepaid Green Dot Visa gift card. Please do not send anyone a prepaid Green Dot Visa gift card without first verifying that the problem is legitimate first.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important that all residents be aware of these scams in order to keep from becoming a victim. We are encouraging residents to not send prepaid Green Dot Visa gift cards to anyone without first confirming that problem is legitimate. Please call the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office at 352-955-1818 if you receive a call that involves a scam.
SHERIFF SADIE DARNELL