Shoppers are making their lists and checking them twice. But, they are probably neglecting to check their safety. Just how safe is shopping at this time of the year? Perhaps not nearly as safe as people assume it to be, according to Sheriff Mancuso, especially if people shop alone.
This time of year has a tendency to attract more shopping-related criminal activity because of larger crowds and extended store hours. These factors, combined with the usual distraction related to shopping, create a more favorable environment for petty thieves and other offenders.
In light of these factors, Sheriff Mancuso warns shoppers to be on their guard so that they do not become one of the tens of millions of people a year who are victimized by some sort of criminal activity.
Across the U.S., malls and shopping centers are heightening security measures by hiring additional security personnel and installing surveillance cameras in areas such as parking lots and entrance ways.
“Unfortunately, when shopping, people sometimes have a tendency to become distracted and lose sight of their personal safety,” said Sheriff Mancuso. “However, there are several precautions busy shoppers can take to help eliminate their chances of becoming a crime statistic.”
Sheriff Mancuso suggests busy shoppers take some safety precautions to reduce their chances of being victimized by criminals who thrive on shoppers at this time of the year. Those safety precautions include:
BEFORE YOU LEAVE:
There is safety in numbers. Always try to shop with another person. A single shopper is the ultimate target for theft.
When going shopping, make sure you tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return home.
Try and avoid taking young children into busy shopping areas, but if it is unavoidable, make sure they know what to do if they lose you. e.g., tell the nearest counter assistant that they are lost and NEVER leave a shop without you.
Agree on a meeting point with older children in case you get separated.
Before going shopping, remove from your wallet or purse any credit cards or other valuable identification that you will not need to reduce risk.
Make a list of all credit card numbers and the numbers to call in case they are lost or stolen. This will make the incident a lot easier to report.
Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in busy areas where thieves and pickpockets target purses and bags left unattended.
Be aware that wearing headphones will decrease your ability to stay alert to your surroundings.
Be alert to distraction theft. Watch out for thieves using a “tag team” approach. While one person distracts you by bumping into you or through conversation, the other is snatching your purse or wallet.
Don’t get loaded down with too many bags. Plan for your heaviest purchases last. Try to always keep one hand free.
If you are in a store and sense that you are being followed, locate a store employee or security personnel. Be prepared to give them a complete description of the person you suspect.
If you think you spot a thief or pickpocket, alert the police or security staff. Avoid a confrontation whenever possible.
If carrying cash, keep it in a front pocket. This makes it more difficult for a pickpocket to remove.
Store car keys in a pant or jacket pocket. If your purse is stolen, you will still be able to drive home.
Always carry a cell phone for easy access to emergency services.
PARKING LOT SAFETY:
Don’t leave lots of presents on display in a parked car as they could tempt thieves. Remember, out of sight, out of mind. Lock your car doors.
Plan ahead. If you know you are going to return to your car after nightfall, park in a well-lit area. Not your parking place.
If you feel uneasy returning to your car alone, find a security guard and ask him to walk you to your car.
Have your car keys in your hand to avoid spending unnecessary time unprotected from the security of your vehicle.
When approaching your car, check around it and in the back seat.
Sheriff Mancuso concluded, “Have a safe and joyous holiday season from your Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office.”