Agencies Issue Holiday Shopping Safety Reminders

BERLIN — With Thanksgiving in the books and the holiday shopping season now in full swing, local residents and visitors are flocking to area malls and shopping centers, prompting local law enforcement officials this week to issue a few common sense reminders to ensure they, and their packages, make it home safely.
With the arrival of Black Friday and the Christmas season rapidly approaching, the holiday shopping season is now hitting its stride as thousands will flock to area malls and shopping centers. Joining them, unfortunately, is an in-kind criminal element ready to take advantage of even the smallest opportunity. It happens every year at this time and local law enforcement agencies step up patrols and increase their visibility in heavy traffic shopping areas, but residents should be armed with a good dose of common sense and extra vigilance to deter would-be criminals.
“Criminals are very opportunistic and ready to take advantage of the holiday shopper that is caught in the hustle and bustle and has let their guard down,” said Ocean City Police Public Information Officer Lindsay O’Neal this week. “Fortunately, a few common sense methods can deter criminals and protect shoppers.”
Of course, common sense should be practiced by shoppers at all times of the year, but with the sheer volume of holiday shopping and the associated criminal element ready to prey on it, the sheer volume of incidents spike up during late November and December each year. Holiday shoppers tend to let their guard down and throw the simplest common sense practices out the window during the hustle and bustle of the season.
O’Neal said it’s important for shoppers to be aware of their surroundings and keep a close eye on what is going on around them. Most of the holiday shopping-related crimes are crimes of opportunity. When unaware shoppers let their guard down for even a second, a criminal could be ready to jump at the chance.
Many of the holiday shopping-related crimes take place in dark or dimly lit parking lots away from other shoppers. O’Neal said a few common sense tips can prevent shoppers from becoming victims. For example, try to park in well-lit areas near the entrance whenever possible. Also, it’s just as important to remember safety tips on the way out as it is on the way in.
“We also encourage shoppers to remember where they’ve parked and have the car keys out and ready when leaving the shopping center,” she said. “This way, there is no fiddling in a purse or pockets to find keys and if the shopper is approached by a criminal, they can easily hit the panic button on their key remote.”
Again, parking lot crimes are crimes of opportunity and local law enforcement officials are offering tip on avoiding becoming a victim. When possible, put new purchase in the trunk or try to cover them if they are inside the passenger compartment. Of course, it goes without saying one should always lock their vehicle.
“Before leaving your car, double check that the car doors are locked,” she said. “Many criminals will simply walk around a parking lot trying car doors until they find one that is unlocked.”
O’Neal said women are often victimized by criminals during the holiday shopping season and offered another safety tip.
“While in crowded malls, women are encouraged to use cross-body purses rather than shoulder purses,” she said. “This makes it much more difficult for criminals to quickly snatch a purse off a shoulder and run off.”
While some criminals lurk in shopping malls and parking lots, some who are more sophisticated can victimize shoppers from a computer.
“Use common sense when shopping online,” she said. “Check your bank and credit card statements often to make sure that only those things that you have purchased are on there.”

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