It's a busy time of year for the Phoenix Police Department, not only bumping up security around popular retail shops during holiday shopping, but also finding time to bring Christmas to children across the South Mountain Precinct.
Sgt. Scott McCauley said they really start to get busy around October, with neighborhood parties and festivals they are asked to attend.
That extends into Thanksgiving with various turkey drives across the Valley, and then when December hits McCauley says his squad has more than five large charity events they take part in.
"It's just an extension of what we normally do," McCauley said. "Most officers have gone into this profession wanting to help others. It's a natural progression of helping those less fortunate than us, especially this time of year. It's just another way for the officers to give back to the community."
Their first events take place Dec. 3. Volunteers from the department will help with the Travis L. Williams Family Service Center Christmas Giveaway and Barbecue, and also the Chicanos por la Causa Christmas event.
At both they provide gifts for children in need, and they get to know the kids as they enjoy pictures with Santa.
On Dec. 20 the squad will take part in Shop with a Cop when they take a child from Wakeup Club shopping for their own gift.
On Dec. 22 officers from across the Valley will take part in the W. Steven Martin Toy Drive. Officers collect toys and then take all their donations to the W. Steven Martin warehouse to go "shopping" for a local family.
"We shop through the warehouse and they have all the gifts categorized by age and gender," McCauley said. "We get to choose three gifts per child. We shop for the gifts and then those gifts are gift-wrapped and we hop in our police cars and deliver them around. We bring Christmas to them."
This year, children who will get toys from the W. Steven Martin Toy Drive will be recommended by patrol officers who've had contact with them at some time.
Finally, an event McCauley says is extremely heartwarming is officers visiting Hacienda de los Angeles.
"It's a 24/7 care facility that takes care of infants all the way to adults who have experienced birth defects, severe accidents, extreme trauma or any number of medical ailments that impair them physically, mentally, or both," McCauley said. "It's a pretty moving experience. A lot of these kids don't necessarily know that we're there, but some of them do. Even though they can't speak, you can see it in their eyes and their smiles."
He said they bring donated gifts to the center and some officers buy gifts on their own to bring.
According to McCauley, some of the events have been going on in the precinct for so long they've become tradition, but for each new event it's never difficult to find officers willing to volunteer their time for not only the large events, but the smaller charity events they take part in. It's a blessing for them to be able to give back to the community.
"Just to put a smile on the face of some of these kids that have so much going on in their lives, it really puts things in perspective and makes me realize how lucky and fortunate I am, and my children are, that we don't have to rely on things like this to make our holiday season special," McCauley said.
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Holiday Safety Tips From Phoenix Police
• If at all possible, never shop alone. There is safety in numbers.
• If shopping at night, always park in well lighted areas, and park as close to the business as possible.
• When leaving the business and approaching the parking lot, have your car keys ready, keep your hands clear, and put your purchases away as soon as possible. Do not linger in the parking lot, drive away immediately.
• If accosted in a parking lot, run if at all possible and do whatever you can to attract attention (scream, blow a whistle, or honk your horn). If you cannot escape, do not resist the attacker; normally the suspect only wants your property. Criminals will often use a ruse of some type to get a potential victim to stop in the parking lot, making him or her more vulnerable to attack.
• Citizens should report suspicious person(s) and activity to store personnel or the police immediately; especially if approached by anyone.
• Remember: No material item is worth serious injury or the loss of a life.
• If at all possible, major/long-term shopping with children should be avoided. If you must shop with your children, remember they are easily distracted. Keep them close at all times, especially in parking lots.
• Do not leave your purchases in your vehicle. Criminals are on the look-out for easy theft opportunities.
Holiday safety at home
This is the time of year when we spend a lot of time visiting family and friends, and hosting holiday gatherings. Unfortunately, these festive occasions often invite opportunities for negligence and crime. Keep these safety tips in mind as we celebrate the holiday season:
• Know where your children are at all times! Children will be out playing in the great winter weather we have here in Arizona. Driveway accidents are on the rise and, as we come and go, it’s important that we pay attention while entering and leaving driveways and traveling on neighborhood streets. And, don’t forget about those swimming pools!
• Often times we leave our homes unsecured as friends and families come and go. Just as often, we forget to secure all of our doors and windows after entertaining. Take care to secure all doors and windows not only when you are away from home, but even as you sleep.
• You should avoid leaving those empty wrappings and boxes outside your home before your scheduled rubbish pick up. This seemingly harmless action tells would-be criminals what you got for Christmas, and they just might be encouraged to break in and take your holiday cheer. Rubbish should be placed outside no sooner than the evening before pick up, and preferably the morning of.
• Be wary of solicitors and those who impersonate utility and other business employees. As always, do not open your door for any stranger who arrives at your home unscheduled!
• Visit phoenix.gov/police for more information about the department, services and programs.