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Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

The Cobb Police Department is urging citizens to be alert to discourage thieves and avoid becoming victims.

The following is the Cobb Police Department Precinct 4's November PENS (Police Email Notification System) bulletin, which communicates with citizens and businesses about safety and security matters.  

This bulletin offers tips on how holiday shoppers can reduce the risk of being victimized by thieves.

With the onset of the holidays comes a stronger presence from thieves trying to take advantage of the season in their own way. 

Thanksgiving is just a week away and the holiday shopping season will officially begin. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is often the busiest shopping day of the year. Shoppers will be out in full force and so will the thieves. And although there will also be an increased law enforcement presence, we simply cannot be everywhere at once. The intent is not to frighten you into staying home to do all your shopping online, but instead to educate you with simple steps you can take that will reduce your chances of becoming a victim. 

The thefts of items from your vehicle almost always increase this time of year. Thieves target the parking lots at malls and retail establishments looking for high yield with little investment. But again, a little planning goes a long way toward reducing your chances of becoming a victim. Try to choose well lit parking spaces in areas closer to the main entrances and exits, even if it means you have to circle the parking lot a couple of times. Pay attention to anyone who appears to be loitering in the parking lot and report suspicious behavior, first by calling 911, and then by notifying mall or store security where available. Limit the number of trips you make to the car in any one shopping expedition. If you have to leave packages in your car, unload them into the trunk and keep your windows up and doors locked. 

Shop for high dollar items last, especially electronics, and don’t make any stops on the way home.

Once you make your purchase whether it is a flat screen television, iPad, or that new PS3 for the kids, take the items home and immediately unload the car. Many times thieves will sit in the parking lots of electronic and computer stores and watch while you load your car with your new purchases. They follow you to your next destination and while you are inside finishing your shopping or grabbing dinner, they are outside unloading your vehicle, usually in mere seconds. 

Other crimes such as purse snatching and wallet thefts may increase this time of year. Criminals know that shoppers will likely carry numerous credit cards and often be tired and distracted. These crimes are largely opportunistic, meaning that the suspect commits the crime because they have a chance to, and not because they planned to. The good news is there are things you can do to reduce the chances of becoming the victim of these types of crime that are quite simple and don’t require any special skills or training.

Do not place your purse in the shopping cart. At some point you will become distracted, leaving it an easy target Carry a purse with a long strap so you can wear it across your body, virtually eliminating the chance of having it stolen and at the same time reducing shoulder fatigue. Keep your purse zipped, and limit the number of credit cards you carry with you, taking only the ones you know you will need. In the event your wallet is stolen, the thief will have less to work with and you will have fewer cards to cancel.

Stay aware of your surroundings as you shop, walk to and from your car, and even as you return home after a long day of shopping. Look around as you are walking, and even occasionally glance behind you to send the message that you are aware of what is going on around you, and don’t be afraid to make eye contact with people. Minimize distractions such as talking on the cell phone while you are walking in parking lots and parking decks. Walk with a purpose and exude confidence, even when you are tired and don’t feel like it. And whenever possible, shop with an adult companion.

Before you head back to your car, make sure your car keys are available so that you won’t need to dig through your purse while loaded down with packages. If someone approaches in a parking lot to ask you for the time, for money, or any other reason, do not stop. Instead keep a steady pace and tell them firmly that you are not interested. This is often a ploy to distract you so that your belongings can be stolen or to engage you in some type of scam. If your cell phone rings, ignore it. That is what caller ID is for; you can return the call after you have unloaded your packages and are sitting down with locked car doors.

A person who walks with confidence and remains aware of their surroundings and free of distractions deters criminals. The very nature of a criminal’s chosen profession indicates that they don’t want to work hard at anything, not even crime.

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