Cashing in on Christmas

The holiday season may be a time for giving and caring for those less fortunate, but it can also be an opportunity for some to cash in on the fortunes of others.

Throw in a bad economy, rising unemployment and shrinking job security along with the stress and alcohol consumption that often comes with the holidays and you have the recipe for what many law enforcement officers deem crimes of opportunity.

However, this year, it's unclear if the bad economy is leading to an increase in crime or not, and police won't truly know until the end of the December, but it is something that it certainly on their minds this time of year.

"You tend to see these crimes of opportunity around this time of year," said Lt. Thomas Heffernan of the Bethlehem Police Department.

Heffernan described "crimes of opportunity" as financial and property crimes, such as burglaries, larcenies, bank robberies, purse snatchings, credit card and identity theft and home invasions.

He said educating the public and reminding people to be careful and vigilant during the holidays is an important tool in preventing theft.

In Guilderland a string of ATM night-deposit robberies have been directly linked to the busy shopping season.

"This time of year, you have a lot of stores that are making night deposits because of the holidays," said Lt. Daniel P. McNally of the Guilderland Police Department. The department has a year-round substation in Crossgates Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in the area.

Making malls safer

Crossgates recently implemented a new top-of-the-line security system this holiday season, but said it was not specifically added because crime is any worse this year.

Sara Boniface, the marketing director for Crossgates Mall said the mall is not adding any additional security officers for the holiday season, but there will be additional crossing guards and a shuttle service to help patrons get from the outer parking spaces to the mall entrance.

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