Holiday Shopping Safety Tips Offered

OCEAN CITY — With 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 with thousands flocking to area malls and shopping centers. Joining them, unfortunately, is an in-kind number of criminals 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.

“It’s that time of year again when shops will be busy and our schedules will fill up,” said Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Public Information Officer Lindsay Richard this week. “It is also the time of year that law enforcement across the country sees a spike in thefts.”

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 holiday season.

“Criminals are often very opportunistic people and will take advantage of the fact that citizens are all busy with the hustle and bustle of the holidays,” said Richard. “It’s easy for citizens to let their guard down, but by following a few simple safety tips, the chance of becoming a theft victim decreases dramatically.”

Richard 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 waiting 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. Richard 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.

For example, hold purses close to the body or put wallets in a coat or pants pocket to deter purse snatchers. Never flash large amounts of cash when paying for merchandize. In addition, never leave valuables, packages and shopping bags in plain view inside vehicles. Of course, one safety tip can help avoid criminals trolling shopping area parking lots.

“Always make sure your car is locked,” said Richard. “It isn’t uncommon for a criminal to try doors in a parking lot until they find one that is unlocked.”

While some criminals lurk in shopping malls and parking lots, others who are more sophisticated can victimize shoppers from a computer. In an era when many are doing their holiday shopping online, cyber-crime has become just as prevalent as traditional crime.

Richard urged online shoppers to only use websites they know are legitimate and to check bank statements often to catch signs of identity theft. In addition, always be mindful of leaving packages on porches.

“Have packages delivered to your workplace if possible, or pick them up at the post office,” she said. “Limit the amount of time that a package is left sitting on your doorstep. Criminals will be looking for unattended deliveries at this time of the year.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.