Shopping during the holiday season presents unique dangers. With its hustle and bustle, even the most vigilant among us can become distracted and careless. Make safety a priority and follow these tips to avoid becoming a holiday crime victim.
1. Have a plan for your outing – beginning, middle and end. Think through the “what ifs” and worst case scenarios. Work through solutions before confronted with stressful situations.
2. Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must go at night, go with a friend or family member.
3. Dress comfortably. Wear comfortable shoes that allow you to move quickly.
4. Avoid wearing noticeably expensive clothing and accessories.
5. Keep your cell phone on you.
6. Do not carry a purse, if possible.
7. Only carry your driver’s license or personal identification, and any checks, credit cards and cash you intend to use.
8. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
9. Carry any cash in your front pocket.
10. Keep a record of all your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
11. Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. This time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking you, your money or your belongings.
12. ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you get a “bad vibe” from a person or situation, remain in a well-lit busy area until you are certain the threat no longer exists or help arrives.
IN AND AROUND THE MALL
13. Walk confidently. Keep your head up and shoulders back.
14. Always be alert to your surroundings. Do not look at your phone or other hand-held device. Remember to scan the upper balconies from time to time; criminals often do their surveillance from high ground.
15. Always be aware of what’s going on in your blind spots.
16. Use blue-tooth headsets if you must talk on your phone while shopping.
17. If you must carry a purse, do not leave it unattended in shopping carts or wear it slung to your back.
18. Carry bags with the strap over one shoulder and across your body so the strap cannot be used as a convenient “handle” by which to grab and control. When with another person, the purse should be held between the two.
19. Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion.
20. Avoid darkened hallways and other backroom areas, especially near closing time.
21. Avoid using bathrooms that are tucked away in a back area of a mall concourse or department. Instead, find a bathroom near the mall’s food court or other well-trafficked area.
22. If possible, avoid using revolving doors – particularly the automatic kind.
23. Do not withdraw cash from mall ATMs, as this attracts unwanted attention.
24. Pay for purchases with credit cards whenever possible.
SHOPPING WITH CHILDREN
25. If possible, shop with another adult so you can take turns browsing and minding the children.
26. Keep children close at all times. Do not let them wander around unsupervised.
27. Point out security guards and store personnel, so your child knows where to go for help if he gets lost.
28. Make a plan in case you are separated from each other. Select a central meeting place.
29. Always accompany a child to the bathroom.
30. Immediately notify store employees of a missing child. Most stores have a procedure in place to secure exits and search for the missing child.
PARKING LOT SAFETY
31. After dark, park in well-lit areas and as close to the entrances/exits as possible.
32. Plan ahead. If your shopping might continue until after dark, park in an area that will be well-lit.
33. Back into parking spaces allowing for rapid exit if necessary.
34. If possible, avoid parking in a “pack”, and avoid parking near high profile vehicles such as vans and utility trucks.
35. If you enter a mall through a store, know when that store closes and exit before it locks up to prevent a long, exposed walk to get back to your vehicle.
36. Ask security to escort you to your vehicle if you feel uncomfortable or have many packages.
37. Beware of suspicious strangers approaching you, and communicate a clear boundary.
38. Report suspicious people loitering in parking lots and around entrances.
39. If you carry a personal protection device such as pepper spray or stun gun, make sure you are trained and confident in its use and you are willing to use it without hesitation. Also be aware than any device you use has the possibility of being used against you.
40. Remember where you parked your car. Being unable to locate your car can cause you undue confusion and stress that may present you as a better target to a criminal.
41. Have your keys in hand when approaching your car. Keep your thumb on your key fob alarm if you have one.
42. Walk where you can be seen by many others -- in the center of aisles, not up against parked cars.
43. Be aware of passing high profile vehicles; criminals can be hide unseen until you are right up next to the car, making you more vulnerable to attack.
44. Be vigilant around panel vans or utility vehicles parked on the driver’s side or near your vehicle. It is easy to be pulled through the sliding door of a van.
45. Check in and around your car before getting in. (A small flashlight comes in handy.)
46. Do not turn your back on the world as you load your vehicle.
47. Lock your vehicle even for the short time it will take to return the shopping cart.
48. Ignore handbills placed on the windshield. This could be a set up.
49. Once in your vehicle, lock your door and immediately drive away.
50. Make sure you have not been followed from the mall by paying attention to the vehicles around or behind you.
FINAL REMINDER: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! IF SOMETHING SEEMS OFF, ASSUME IT IS AND ACT ACCORDINGLY. NEVER DISCOUNT OR DENY YOUR INTUITION!
Have a safe and happy holiday!