Don’t let criminals steal Christmas cheer

Here are some tips to keep in mind when venturing out during the holidays.

  • Dec. 22, 2011 9:00 a.m.

It’s that time of year again where we stock our fridges with egg nog and rush off to local stores to find the best deals on Christmas gifts for loved ones.

The holiday season is a time for fun, family and festivity so don’t let criminals ruin your holiday cheer. In order to avoid heartaches and disappointments, here are a few precautions people should keep in mind when venturing out during the holidays.

• If you prefer to use cash for your purchases and plan on stopping by a bank on the way to the mall, don’t withdraw more money than you need.

Having large sums of cash on your person isn’t recommended as thieves have been known to target parking lots around financial institutions.

Earlier this year distraction thefts were occurring to people who had recently left banks after withdrawing large sums of cash.

• Once at the mall parents are reminded to keep an eye on their little ones and to never use stores, displays or video arcades as a baby sitter.

Sadly, children are abducted every year, often in malls or department stores.  Have a plan of action and ensure your children understand it in the event they become separated from you.  Suggest that they make their way to the nearest cashier to tell them they are lost and to stay there for assistance.

• Leaving your children unattended in shopping carts while you shop is not recommended, as this can lead to injuries from children falling out of the carts.

Strapping your child into the cart is a good idea, but please be aware that this may still be hazardous to your children as they may struggle to get out and tip the cart over in the process.

• In order to put a damper on pickpockets and thieves that may be wandering through the mall, follow these simple rules:

Men should carry their wallets in their front pockets as opposed to their back pockets or jackets.

Women should carry their purses close to their body but should not wrap their purse straps around themselves.  Doing so could cause you to be dragged down to the ground in the event that your purse is snatched.

• Avoid using revolving doors as thieves with good timing can grab your parcels and get away by the time it takes you to emerge.

• Never leave your purchases unattended, even for a short period of time.

• Parking is almost always a problem when it comes to the holiday season.  If possible, park under lighting close to entrances and exits.

• Under no circumstances should you leave your children unattended in your vehicle, even for a short period of time.

• Place your purchases in your trunk to avoid drawing attention to your vehicle.  Know that if you place your purchases in the back seat you may return to your vehicle to find your windows smashed and all of your gifts stolen.  If you use a GPS to assist you in getting from one place to another, a good idea is to remove it from plain view as well or take it with you while you shop.

• When your day of shopping is over and it’s time to head home, a good practice is to have your keys ready when you approach your vehicle. By doing so you avoid the clumsiness of trying to find your keys and juggling with your shopping bags which delays getting into your vehicle.

If you feel uncomfortable about walking to your vehicle alone in the dark, consider asking a security guard to escort you.

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