Keep Those Shopping Bags Safe

Don't become a victim of crime

Increased shopping this holiday season also mean an spike in thefts and robberies. Criminals will be out in full force trying to separate you from your valuables, so authorities are warning the public to be on high alert.

Not only will a thief rob you, but they will take any items they may see left in your vehicle. Police said that in recent months, there has been a growing number of GPS, iPod and other electronic devices being stolen from vehicles.

Washington Family Magazine says being aware of your surroundings when you leave your car and when you return is increasingly important during the holidays. Here are some ways to keep yourself from becoming a victim:

  • Park next to entrances or in open and well-lit areas. If there is a "baby on board" special, up front parking place, this is the time to take advantage of it.
  • Identify entrances and exits when you enter a parking lot.
  • Avoid leaving valuables in your car where they can be seen. 
  • Roll up windows, lock the doors and close the sunroof before leaving your car.
  • Report any suspicious activity to security.
  • Keep your keys in hand and walk with a purpose when you return to your vehicle. If you do not feel comfortable ask a security officer to escort you to your vehicle.
  • Prepare to enter the car quickly and drive away, don't linger.
  • Keep the doors locked and windows up until you have exited the parking lot.

<b>Other holiday shopping safety tips include:</b>

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Know exactly where you parked your car.
  • If shopping at night, park in well-lit areas.
  • Avoid shopping alone, and avoid shopping until you are exhausted. You are more alert when you are less tired.
  • Carry keys, cash and credit cards separate from each other.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If possible, avoid carrying a purse. Use a fanny pack or deep pockets in clothing to carry what you need. Limit the number of credit cards that you carry. But, If you have to carry a purse, carry it close to your body and always zipped or snapped.
  • Be aware of strangers “accidentally” bumping into you. Pick-pockets use this as a diversion.
  • Avoid carrying large packages that block your vision and make you a target for thieves. Juggling your keys or cell phone can also decrease your awareness level.
  • When hurried or in a crowded shop, make sure you get all forms of identification and credit cards returned to you before you leave.
  • Leave the mall/store well before closing time. This way, there is a greater assurance you will walk out with other people. There is safety in numbers.
  • Use an escort or mall security if you have too many packages or if you are leaving the store after closing.
  • Be alert while walking to your car. Check under and around your car as you approach it. After checking your car, lock it immediately upon entering it.
  • If you see a van parked next to your car, you can choose to enter your car through the passenger side.
  • Avoid using automatic teller machines at night and remember to keep others from seeing when you type in your PIN.
  • Remove GPS, iPods and any other electronic devices from your windshield and store them out of sight, and remove any evidence (i.e. suction cup marks) from your windshield.

<b>Keeping Your Home Safe</b>

Do not leave the boxes of your Christmas gifts (such as computers, televisions, etc.) at the curb as this advertises the contents of your home to potential thieves. Ensure doors and windows are locked at all times, even when you are home. Use timers on lights to give the appearance you are home when you are not. If you order gifts to be delivered to your home, ensure someone is there to accept the package. Have a trusted neighbor keep a lookout for the packages. If you go out of town for the holidays, make sure you ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to check the house at least once a day and pick up mail and newspapers. Provide your contact number in case of emergency. Keep garage doors closed and be sure the door from the garage into the home is secured. Make sure your home address is not showing on your luggage.

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