With the holiday season quickly approaching, the Mount Airy Police Department wants to remind county residents that crimes tend to increase during the busy shopping season.
“Crimes such as vehicle breaking and entering, purse snatching, larcenies and other crimes will be on the rise during this time,” said Lt. Kelly Hiatt.
But with a few simple precautions, residents can minimize their risk, and Hiatt offered some safety tips for holiday shoppers.
“Park in well-lit areas when you go to malls and retail stores,” he said. “Even if you go during the day, check to see where the parking lot’s lights are located, because it may be dark when you come back outside.”
Shoppers also can be sure to remember exactly where they parked in the lot, according to police.
“Hanging around in the parking lot looking for your vehicle makes you an easy target,” Hiatt said. “Have your keys in your hand when walking to your vehicle so you can get right in.”
Another tip is as simple as looking like a shopper on a mission.
“When walking through the parking lots, and inside the stores or malls, walk confidently knowing what is around you at all times,” Hiatt said.
Female shoppers are especially at risk because they often are carrying tempting-looking purses.
“Ladies, hold your purses close to your body and avoid letting them dangle from your arm,” Hiatt said. “A would-be thief is looking for an easy target, and will most likely choose a victim who is not paying attention that they can steal from easily.”
And don’t leave purses and personal items in a shopping cart that can be temporarily abandoned when spotting that perfect gift.
“Be aware that some thieves work in pairs,” Hiatt said. “One will distract you by talking to you or asking a question, while the other takes your property.”
Items purchased should always be locked up tight during a shopping trip, he added.
“Keep your vehicles locked at all times,” the lieutenant said. “When leaving merchandise you have purchased in your vehicle, please lock it in the trunk or in a place that is not visible from the outside.”
It may sound simple, but Hiatt also said check cards can be a deterrent to would-be thieves.
“Don’t carry large amounts of cash,” he urged. “If you do, avoid showing large amounts of cash to other shoppers, and make sure no one is watching when you type in a PIN (Personal Identification Number).”
As always, the more the merrier is the rule when holiday shopping.
“Avoid shopping alone,” Hiatt said. “If possible, take a family member or friend because thieves are more likely to target someone who is alone.”
When donating to charities, be sure to know what the charities support before handing over money.
“Thieves prey on people because they know good people are willing to give to others who are in need, and they will use that to trick good people out of their money,” he said.
And parents need to keep track of their children when holiday shopping, Hiatt added.
“Never use a video store or arcade as a babysitter,” he said. “Someone who wants to abduct a child may check these places because they know parents will at times leave children there while they shop. Make sure you know store policies on missing children before shopping there.”
And just because people buy online doesn’t mean they’re free from potential crime, Hiatt said.
“Remember the following tips: Only shop with trusted Internet merchants. If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Check the merchant’s refund policies, make sure they are using a secure server, refrain from using a debit card because it exposes your checking account,” he said.
Online shoppers also should print and retain confirmation and order numbers and frequently check online accounts for accuracy.
With the current downturn in the economy, police say crimes are on the rise.
“Please take every precaution to keep yourself, your home and your business from becoming a victim of crime,” Hiatt said.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.