Crime on the Rise During the Holidays

Patrick Meaney

The holiday season is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Most people associate the holidays with shopping, gift giving, families and parties. What citizens should be aware and thinking of is break ins, robberies and DUI’s that increase during the holiday season. Ironically, domestic violence also increases in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years, even though it is a time when families are meant to get together.  Easy opportunities for criminals and holiday stresses are some of the reasons for the increases.

I spoke with Antonio Santos. He is a recently retired Patrolman from the Peabody Police Department. His area of patrol was the vicinity of the North Shore Mall. With 28 years of experience under his belt, he has seen his share of crime. He reports, “There is a lot more shoplifting in stores and other thefts.” There is more opportunity for criminals during this time. According to Officer Santos, “There is definitely an increase of crime during the holiday season, especially in the mall parking lot.”  Criminals are mostly looking to steal small electronics, like phones, tablets, and laptops. These items are stolen due to their value and how easy they are to hide. “Shoppers put their packages in the backseat of their cars and the criminals can easily break into the cars and steal the gifts,” commented Officer Santos. He acknowledges that people are doing more shopping online these days, but that people still flock to the mall for holiday gifts and get robbed.


In addition to the increase of crimes in the stores and shopping plaza parking lots, he reports that it also increases in homes and neighborhoods. “Presents are getting stolen from people’s front porches.” With online shopping, more packages are being delivered to homes while people are at work. Unfortunately, the criminals see the opportunity and jump on it. Officer Santos states, “Criminals follow the UPS trucks and then steal the gifts as soon as the truck drives away.” To counteract this, UPS trucks now have two people. One to deliver the package, and a second one trained to watch if they are being followed.  Also, criminals understand that many homes are packed with newly purchased presents and target homes during the daytime when families are at work and school.


There are many steps people can take to protect themselves from crime. Retired Officer Santos has a good tip for shoppers, “Put your presents in your trunk.” For online shoppers, buy smart and be wary of scams. “At home, it would be wise to establish a neighborhood watch or get a in-home alarm system or a large dog,” says Officer Santos. ”


Another target location for theft is charity collections, like the Salvation Army and the Jimmy Fund.  As reported by the Boston Globe on November 27, 2015, a “44-year-old registered nurse, walked into Norwood Police headquarters Friday morning and admitted to stealing a Jimmy Fund can with $84  meant for the charity.” He was arraigned in Dedham District Court after being held on $500 bail. Last week, in Michigan, a  29-year-old man was arrested after he stole a Salvation Army donation kettle  from outside of a pharmacy. This time of year generous people donate to help others; criminals take advantage of the charitable contributions.


Another crime that occurs more often during the holidays happen within families. Officer Santos reports, “Domestic violence picks up, usually a week before Christmas and after New Year’s.” He says, “Much of this is due to the economic stress of the holidays, excessive alcohol consumption at family gatherings or holiday parties, and some family members seeing each other who otherwise don’t get along.” Officer Santos stated that this is not a new problem as domestic disputes have always been more common during the holidays throughout his 28 years on the force.


Parties to celebrate the holidays are always highly anticipated. However, so is the incidents of drinking and driving. This of course is very dangerous and could be deadly. In Ipswich, Chief Nikas implemented the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Campaign to Save Lives. The Chief announced, on the town website, that the Ipswich Police will increased patrols throughout town during the holiday season to prevent impaired driving, as part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. It will run from December 9th through January 2. “We are strongly urging residents to make responsible decisions if they plan to drink while out celebrating for the holidays,” Chief Nikas said. “Always plan ahead to have a sober driver, call a taxi, or take public transportation. We want all of residents to enjoy a safe and happy holiday this year.”


The holiday season is indeed a time for giving, joy, and celebration. Just be aware that your generosity is giving criminals the opportunity for easy loot. However, don’t let fear of being robbed get in the way of the holiday spirit. Enjoy the holidays responsibly, be aware of the dangers of break in and theft.  Always make safe decisions and have fun.


Officer Antonio Santos, at his home in Peabody, MA.
Officer Antonio Santos, at his home in Peabody, MA.