Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Safe Shopping Tips

These tips will be coming to you in the December/January iss ue of The Message, but I thought it would be useful to post them here as well. Although these tips are particularly useful during the holiday season, you should be mindful of them all year long.

Since crime peaks during the holiday season, it’s important that you learn how to keep yourselves and your loved ones out of harm’s way. Criminals look for the easiest opportunity when deciding where and when to commit a crime. Shoppers, particularly women, can be vulnerable to crimes such as theft, robbery and assault. The following crime prevention tips and recommendations will help you make your holiday shopping a safe and happy experience.

· Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Knowing what is around you can keep you from being surprised, and it also allows you time to react if something appears suspicious.

· Display confidence. Criminals tend to choose a victim who looks like an easy target. That choice is partially based on their perception about your ability to react to an attack. If you walk with purpose, scan the area around you, and make casual eye contact with others around you, you are displaying confidence.

· Trust your instincts. Your body will tell you when someone or some thing is suspicious. If you have an intuitive feeling that something is wrong, do not second-guess yourself. React immediately and take action to reduce your risk.

· Keep a close eye on your children while shopping. Teach your children to go to a store clerk or security guard if they ever get separated from you in a store or mall. Make sure they know their first and last name so they can tell someone who they are. It's best to keep children under four in a stroller. Children in shopping carts should be properly belted and seated in the child carrier area at all times —never let your child stand in or push a shopping cart. If possible, leave your children with a baby-sitter while you are shopping. For holiday shopping, consider making arrangements with family or friends/neighbors, and take turns baby-sitting.

· Carry only what you need. Extra cash, credit cards, checks, jewelry and other items should be left at home. If it is necessary to carry a purse, keep it in front of you and close to your body. Men should keep wallets out of back pockets where they can be easily stolen. Carry wallets in a front coat or pants pocket, or use a money clip as an alternative.

· Don’t be overburdened with packages. Carrying several shopping bags makes you look vulnerable. Request a store to hold your merchandise until you’re finished shopping. If the store does not offer that service, put excess packages in the trunk of your car before you continue shopping.

· Shop with others. The chance of being victimized drops off dramatically when with you are with a companion. If there are three or more people together, the chance of being targeted for crime is 90% less than when you’re alone.

· Ask for an escort. Most retailers and shopping malls have private security personnel on duty, especially during the holidays. Ask them for an escort to your vehicle if you are uncomfortable venturing into the parking lot alone.

· Be prepared. Have your keys in hand when walking to your vehicle. The keys can be used as a defensive weapon and you will not waste time trying to find them while standing outside your vehicle. Carry a whistle or a personal alarm. These devices can alert security personnel and other persons around you that something is wrong.

· Plan ahead. Choose parking areas where lighting is good and activity is high. Keep valuables inside your car out of view, preferably in the trunk or other secure compartment. Make sure you lock your car, and use a Club or other anti-theft device. Most thefts from auto occur on cars that are left unlocked.

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