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'Tis Also the Season of Crimes and Misdemeanors

GREENWICH, Conn. – With the holidays rapidly approaching, the Greenwich Police Department is warning merchants and residents to beware of shoplifters, shoppers using counterfeit money and bogus credit cards and a rise in the ticketing of drunk driving.

"The idea of committing crimes at this time of year always seems so incongruous to the spirit of the season that I think we all take crime at this time of year much more to heart,” said Lt. Kraig Gray, a 19-year police veteran and spokesman for the Greenwich department.

Everyone is looking to get presents, including criminals, said Gray, adding that holiday season larcenies have increased slightly since 2007.

“There will be more shoplifting and merchants will be victimized,” said Gray. “We encourage people never to leave a package in a motor vehicle, locked or unlocked, because there is a Grinch that will steal their stuff.”

In addition to asking residents to keep vehicles locked and their wallets secure, the department encourages residents to shop with a friend, which reduces the chance of being targeted for a crime. Thieves thrive on crimes of opportunity, says Greenwich Police Sgt. Michael Reynolds, and items of value should be removed from vehicles, even once a shopper returns home.

But criminals may use a stolen or counterfeited credit card or money to make purchases. “Merchants will be vigilant even though they’re doing multiple transactions from multiple different people,” Gray said, warning that criminals use stolen credit cards to make purchases. “Although there are a very, very limited number of counterfeit bills, now will be the time when people will try to be passing a lot of them.”

The department will also step up its enforcement against DWIs.  According to published statistics for 2008, 40 percent of fatal collisions in the state were alcohol-related. The department has secured a federal grant to pay for additional officers to patrol at peak DWI times on nights and weekends through the New Year. Drivers can expect checkpoints on Route 1, Delavan Avenue, Railroad Avenue and Arch Street, among other roads. These roads have historically seen higher DUI incidents, according to police.

During last year’s period of increased enforcement – from Dec. 23 to midnight Jan. 2 – the Greenwich Police Department made 113 motor vehicle stops, arrested six drivers on DUI charges and investigated 40 car accidents.

For the total 2010 holiday season, the department issued 844 citations, made 20 DUI arrests and issued 432 warnings, mostly for equipment violations such as burned out headlights or tail lights, according to Sgt. John Slusarz.

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