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Family Safety: Holiday Shopping Safety

Statistics show that crime typically increases during the holiday season. This is because more people with cash, gift cards, etc. are out and about, which presents more opportunities for criminals.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Let’s keep it that way by staying healthy and safe this holiday season. Now that Black Friday has officially kicked off the holiday shopping season, many of us will be hitting shopping centers and malls in search of good deals on gifts for friends and family.

Statistics show that crime typically increases during and after the holiday season. This is because more people with cash, gifts, gift cards, etc. are out and about, which presents more opportunities for the criminal looking for an easy score.

Crimes of Opportunity

Crimes of opportunity are those resulting from spontaneous, unlawful action due to a situation that presents itself without prior planning. Such acts have little or no premeditation. For example, a criminal who notices a vehicle in an isolated section of a parking garage filled with shopping bags and then takes the opportunity to break into the vehicle to steal the contents is committing a crime of opportunity.

Our main goal is to avoid providing an easy opportunity for criminals. Here are some ways to avoid being targeted during holiday shopping trips:

1.) Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you have to shop at night, go with friends or other family members. Avoid shopping alone at night.

2.) Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or anything that would attract unwanted attention from a potential mugger or thief.

3.) When approaching your car check to see if anyone is hiding underneath the vehicle. It is possible for someone to hide under your vehicle and grab you as you get in. There have also been cases of assailants using a knife or other weapon to slash or attack their victim’s leg from under the vehicle, making it difficult to run or fight back.

4.) Don’t carry too many packages at once. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom to move. Consolidate your purchases into a small number of bags. Do not make it appear that you have purchased a large number of items.  

5.) Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay with a check or credit card instead.

6.) ALWAYS stay alert. Be on the lookout for anyone in the vicinity of your vehicle that is acting strangely. People do not typically hang around parking lots or parked cars, particularly if they are not carrying any packages, do not have their keys out, etc. Return to the store immediately if you see any suspicious activity near your car.

7.) Tell a friend or family member when and where you’re going, and when you’re expected to return.

8.) Do not purchase items from non-licensed solicitors in parking lots. The goods being offered are often counterfeit or stolen. Even more dangerous, these types of deals are often a set-up for a mugging or robbery attempt.

9.) Make sure any valuables are out of sight or locked in your trunk. Remember, MP3 players, iPods, cell phones, laptop computers, GPS systems, satellite radios and other small electronic devices are a car burglar’s dream.

10.) If you see something, say something! Contact mall security or your local police department if you witness any suspicious or criminal activity while doing your holiday shopping.  If you need immediate response, or anticipate personal safety could be a legitimate concern, call 9-1-1 immediately. And never, ever attempt to investigate suspicious activity on your own. Contacting mall security or police if you witness odd behavior – like someone wiggling the door handles on a vehicle – can help prevent potential crimes like car burglaries and auto theft.

Finally, I want to offer a word of caution on one safety tip that has been taught to people for years, particularly in women’s self-defense courses. It is often recommended that you have your keys ready, in your hand, prior to leaving the store you are shopping in. A few years ago, I learned of a case where the FBI had apprehended a criminal who had abducted and subsequently murdered nearly thirty women across the country over the span of several years. He had approached all his victims in mall parking lots. When the Federal agents were interviewing this career criminal, they asked him how he went about selecting his victims. He stated that he looked for women who had car keys in their hand because that meant they were not being picked up by anyone and were alone. I do think it is a good idea to have your keys (or key fob) in your hand, just keep that hand in a pocket or out of plain view.

If you are unable to follow these suggestions, I recommend doing your holiday shopping online with reputable websites in order to avoid putting yourself at risk.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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