HARLINGEN — The holidays are a time for season’s greetings and family cheer — but it can also be a time when criminals strike.

As people prepare to take a vacation and begin shopping for gifts, Sgt. Larry Moore from the Harlingen Police Department offered a few guidelines to avoid being a victim of theft during this season.

According to Moore, there are several small but important things to do when planning to be away from home.

“Some of the things people can do before they leave on vacation is canceling the paper if they get one delivered,” he said.

“That way, newspapers don’t stack up in the driveway. Don’t forget to pick up new packages and putting timers on lights. That usually makes the appearance someone is home,” he said.

Moore said to make sure all doors are locked, as habitual as it may seem. Also, he suggested to ask a family member or neighbor to check on your house while you’re away.

“If people see cars coming and going that will also make it look like someone is home,” he said.

Nowadays, holiday shoppers skip the store and opt to order online.

Police recommend being extra careful with package deliveries. Boxes left on doorsteps are targets for those looking to steal.

To prevent this from happening, authorities suggest having your package delivered to your work or the home of a relative or friend who will be there to receive the package.

Other suggestions include having the package withheld at the post office or using the “ship to store” option.

Making sure to request a delivered signature is also recommended to avoid losing packages.

Moore said shopping centers and mall areas are also places where one should be cautious.

“During the holidays, thefts and burglaries do tend to go up as the crime opportunities grow, especially at shopping areas when people leave their purses or gifts in the back seat or front seat of the car,” Moore said.

“People sometimes are forgetting to lock the doors on their cars,” he said.

Moore recommends putting gifts in the trunk, making sure all car doors are locked and parking in a well-lit area.

“Anytime the holidays come up, crimes like these will turn up. Don’t give them an opportunity or a reason to,” he said.

Holiday safety tips:

– Make sure you always lock cars and homes during the holidays. Thieves take advantage of unoccupied homes and open cars.

– Try to leave lights on or set a timer. Thieves will not approach homes that appear to be occupied.

– Have a family member or neighbor pick up packages left outside your door.