Criminals Target Holiday Shoppers in Parking Lots

With people heading to the malls and stores for Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving, shoppers should remember the following to stay safe:

Dress in comfortable clothing with a number of pockets. Avoid flashy jewelry whether it is real or costume. Wear comfortable shoes in case you have to run from an assailant.

Avoid purses and wallets. Instead carry a fanny pack to leave your hands free to deal with children and packages. Carry only the essentials. For men, instead of a wallet, carry a money clip in your front pocket.

Carry cash in denominations no larger than a $20. Carry your cash in various locations on your body, such as pockets, socks and bras. If you carry a checkbook, keep up with the check numbers and the recipients in order to be able to easily cancel checks if necessary. Carry only the credit cards you need while shopping. Always log your credit card numbers and the 800 numbers and keep them in a safe place in case you have to cancel them.

Drive with your car doors locked.

Drive around a parking lot to make sure there are no suspicious people lurking about. Park in a well-lit area and landmark yourself so you can find your car easily. Exit quickly, lock your doors and walk quickly to your destination. Keep your keys in your hand in case you have to use them as a defensive weapon. Walk well away from the parked cars because someone could be hiding between them. Move to the driver’s side of a car if one approaches. Make both visual and verbal contact with people. This lets a potential attacker know you have seen them and may recognize them again.

When returning to your car, have your keys in hand, quickly enter your car and leave. Do not sit and arrange packages, make phone calls or put on make-up.

Do not activate a remote keyless entry until you are even with the back of your vehicle.

If you are attacked, do not resist. If you are forced into a physical confrontation to protect yourself or others, scream to call attention to yourself. Use keys or thumbs to gouge the attacker’s eyes, use the heel of your hand to jam the attacker’s nose or Adams apple, knee the groin area or stomp down on top of the attacker’s foot. Then, run quickly to escape.

If you are attacked, try to be able to describe your attacker by race, sex, height, weight, identifying features such as scars or tattoos. Note glasses and clothing, vehicle descriptions and the direction of travel.

Shop with others, and if you are by yourself and worried about going into the parking lot, ask for an escort from security or the store manager.

Do not leave valuables in your vehicles. Cash, purses, coins, jewelry, cell phones, radar detectors, cameras, GPS systems and laptop computers are very popular items to steal.

Make sure you are not followed. If you think you are being followed, drive until you see a police officer or go through a fast food drive window and ask the clerk to get a description of the vehicle if they can and call the police for you. Do not go home.

Always check that no one enters your garage as the door closes behind you. Exit your vehicle only after you know that everything is secure.

911 is a free call on your cell phone. Know your locations so you can give it to the police dispatcher.

These are just some of the important factors “all” shoppers should consider to protect yourself in the mall parking lots. Criminals are hungry and they will strike when they believe your guard is down.

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