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Holiday Shopping Tips from Precinct 4

Thieves aren't waiting for the Christmas shopping season to begin, so take precautions now to avoid becoming a victim.

Holiday Shopping Tips from Precinct 4

The following information is included in the November PENS Report (Police E-Mail Notification System) issued by Precinct 4 of the Cobb Police Department:

Although traditionally the holiday shopping season starts the day after Thanksgiving, many retailers are kicking off the season early this year with sales starting right after turkey dinner.

While shoppers hit the stores hoping to cash in on great deals, thieves hit the parking lots in hopes of stealing your purchases.

The chance of having items stolen always increases this time of year when frazzled shoppers are less likely to pay attention to their surroundings and thieves can count on purchases being left in the car between stops.

While shopping is a necessity this time of year, a little planning can go a long way toward reducing your chances of becoming a victim. Try to choose a well lit location to park preferably near a main entrance, even if it means you have to circle the parking lot a couple of times. Report anyone who appears to be loitering, first by calling 911 and then store security where available.

If you have to leave packages in the car, load them into the trunk and make sure the doors are locked. Don’t try to cover up valuables with a coat or blanket - the thieves know all those tricks and will just pop the door lock or bust the window.

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

It is not uncommon for thieves to sit in the parking lot of the big box retailers or electronics stores and watch while you load the car with your easy-to-spot electronics. After selecting you as a potential victim, they follow you to your next destination and while you grab dinner or finishing up shopping, they unload your vehicle of all your purchases, usually in mere seconds.

Other crimes such as purse snatching and wallet theft may also increase this time of year.

Criminals know that shoppers likely carry numerous credit cards and will be tired and distracted. Never place your purse in the shopping cart! At some point you will become distracted, leaving it an easy target. Instead, opt for a smaller purse with a long strap that can be worn across the body, virtually eliminating the chance of having it stolen and at the same time reducing shoulder fatigue.

Keep the 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 while walking and occasionally glance behind you to send the message that you are aware of your environment; and don’t be afraid to make eye contact with people.

Minimize distractions such as talking on the cell phone while you are walking through the parking lot. Walk with a purpose and exude confidence, even when you are tired and don’t feel like it. A person who walks with confidence and free of distractions is not an attractive target to a criminal.

The very nature of a criminal’s chosen profession indicates that they don’t want to work hard at anything, not even crime.

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 you 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 in your car with locked doors.

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