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DEAR ABBY: May I offer some words of advice for those who make it easy pickings for burglars? Stealing during the holidays is like taking candy from a baby. Most homes display lovely gift packages under Christmas trees. If no precautions are taken, homes become a "marketplace" from which thieves can "shop" with impunity. It is also a time when stores are teeming with careless, unsuspecting shoppers who are stressed out looking for last-minute gifts, and rushing around trying to get everything done. Pickpockets and muggers delight in how easy it is to rob shoppers during the holiday season.

Abby, I would like to provide your readers with some tips to help them avoid becoming victims this holiday season:

-- Thieves hate bright lights, so install outside lights and keep them on at night. If you plan to be away, purchase timers for your indoor lights and set them to make it appear that someone is at home. (Lights left on 24 hours a day are a dead giveaway that the house is empty.)

-- Be sure to have your mail and newspaper delivery halted until you return. If it piles up, it's a sure sign that you're not there.

-- Leave curtains, shades and blinds in the normal position.

-- Be certain door and window locks are in working order -- AND USE THEM.

-- Do not leave blinds or curtains open so that one peek in the window reveals piles of gifts under the tree -- or elsewhere. Allowing thieves to see the gifts is like extending an invitation.

-- Going out for the evening? Turn on some lights, as well as your radio or television. It will make your dwelling appear to be occupied.

-- Beware of couriers delivering packages. Criminals sometimes use that ruse to get a look inside, or if you appear to be alone, to force their way in. Thieves also pose as agents seeking charitable donations. Always ask for identification, ask to see permits, and also ask how the funds will be used.

-- When shopping, be alert and aware of what's going on around you.

-- Park in a lighted garage or lot, and be sure your path to the store is well-lighted. Familiarize yourself with your parking location so you needn't wander around looking for your car when you return. Be sure to place all packages in the trunk of your car and lock your car.

-- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay by credit card or check. To deter pickpockets and purse snatchers, don't overburden yourself with packages. Carry your purse close to your body, securely closed and not dangling by the straps. Men, carry your wallet in an inside pocket or in your front pants pocket.

-- Teach your children to go to a store clerk or security guard if they become separated from you. And if you feel unsafe, do not hesitate to ask a security guard to escort you to your car.

-- A final warning: Be sure your valuables are inventoried and marked. That way, if thieves succeed in robbing you, you have proof of loss and will be able to identify and claim your stolen items should they be recovered.

Happy, safe holidays to you and your readers, Abby. -- "OFFICER KRUPKE," NEW YORK CITY

DEAR "OFFICER KRUPKE":

I think you are great.

Although your letter left me

in a much-saddened state.

I pray that your warnings

aren't taken as quips.

Thank you for your important tips.

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