By Susan Tebben
At 9:30 every night, Albert Makara checks the lights outside his house on Oakridge Drive.
He’s a self-proclaimed “kid” when it comes to decorating for the holidays, and with five grandkids the holidays are even more enjoyable.
Everything looked great when he checked Dec. 8, including the fiber-optic polar bear that was his and his wife’s favorite decoration.
“We bought it in South Carolina before we moved up here, and it made it all the way here,” Makara said Friday. “It looked like the Coca-Cola polar bear.”
An hour later, when Makara passed by again on his way to bed, the bear was gone.
Makara had the bear staked to the ground, along with lighted deer and a horse and buggy that were untouched.
“I keep things pretty straight,” Makara said. “I don’t bother anybody. Why do people want to bother me?”
Makara is among the many who have dealt with crime during the holiday season. Though police say thefts come in spurts not necessarily holiday-related, house burglaries and theft from cars occur more often with the decorations in homes and bigger shopping sprees going on.
“We encourage neighbors to keep an eye on homes and watch for strange cars backing into driveways,” said Jack Nichols, chief of the Boardman Police Department.
Keeping cars locked during shopping trips and homes locked is important, police said, but there are some things that can only be stopped after the fact.
“The big thing that we’re seeing is identity theft because of the online shopping that goes on this time of year,” said Detective Brian McGivern of the Canfield Police Department.
Consumers have to make sure to monitor their credit-card statements at the end of every month to make sure the charges are all their own.
“With technology, people are always checking their Facebook status, and they should learn to check their bank-account activity as well,” McGivern said.
Car thefts are somewhat preventable, involving even more than just locking doors and trunks.
“The best piece of advice I can give people is to not leave stuff in plain view with your car unlocked,” said Capt. Bryan Kloss of the Austintown Police Department. “Numerous cars are entered with wallets and GPS out in view.”
Like Makara, a man in Austintown had his holiday interrupted when a person cut the wires to Christmas lights at his Covington Cove home for the second time. No arrests have been reported in either case.
But Makara plans to continue decorating his house, despite losing a favorite of the season.
“I’ll keep doing it,” Makara said. “These things really make you feel good, and I love decorating.”