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Story Archives: Sheriff urges shopping safety
|Sheriff urges shopping safety|
Holiday shoppers rushing to stores for those last minute gifts should be vigilant to avoid becoming the victim of a holiday crime.
Franklin Parish Sheriff Steve Pylant said the Christmas Shopping season can mean shoppers are more at risk, especially when visiting busy retail centers.
"Unfortunately, when shopping, people sometimes have a tendency to become distracted and lose sight of their personal safety," Pylant said. "But don't become so preoccupied with the thrill and excitement of shopping and holiday festivities that you lose your sense of good judgment when it comes to your personal safety."
Pylant said that, while Franklin Parish is a very safe place to shop, residents should still take basic precautions when stepping out during the busy retail season.
According to the Louisiana Sheriff's Education Foundation, millions of holiday shoppers fall victim to retail-related crimes during the Christmas season, even though shopping malls increase security and law enforcement agencies increase patrols.
To combat the possibility of theft or other crimes, Pylant said there are several steps shoppers can take to protect themselves from would-be criminals.
"We want everyone to have a joyous and safe Christmas season," said Pylant. "They can do that by taking a few precautions.
Pylant said a little preparation before shoppers leave home could go a long way to preventing holiday crimes.
Before leaving home, Pylant said to remember:
-- There is safety in numbers. Always try to shop with another person. A single shopper is the ultimate target for theft.
-- When going shopping, make sure you tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return home.
-- Try and avoid taking young children into busy shopping areas, but if it is unavoidable make sure they know what to do if they lose you. e.g., tell the nearest counter assistant that they are lost and NEVER leave a shop without you.
-- Agree on a meeting point with older children in case you get separated.
-- Before going shopping, remove from your wallet or purse any credit cards or other valuable identification that you will not need to reduce risk.
-- Make a list of all credit card numbers and the numbers to call in case they are lost or stolen. This will make the incident a lot easier to report.
When you arrive at your destination, you'll also want to maintain a general awareness of your surroundings, Pylant said.
Pay attention to these rules while in shopping malls and retail centers:
-- Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in busy areas where thieves and pickpockets target purses and bags left unattended.
-- Be aware that wearing headphones will decrease your ability to stay alert to your surroundings.
-- Be alert to distraction theft. Watch out for thieves using a "tag team" approach. While one person distracts you by bumping into you or through conversation, the other is snatching your purse or wallet.
-- Don't get loaded down with too many bags. Plan for your heaviest purchases last. Try to keep one hand free.
-- If you are in a store and sense that you are being followed, locate a store employee or security personnel. Be prepared to give them a complete description of the person you suspect.
-- If you think you spot a thief or pickpocket alert the police or security staff. Avoid a confrontation whenever possible.
-- If carrying cash, keep it in a front pocket. This makes it more difficult for a pickpocket to remove.
-- Store car keys in a pant or jacket pocket. If your purse is stolen, you will still be able to drive home.
-- Always carry a cell phone for easy access to emergency services.
Shoppers are most vulnerable to when in parking lots, Pylant said. Even there, Pylant had a few suggestions to keep people safe.
When in parking lots:
-- Don't leave lots of presents on display in a parked car as they could tempt thieves. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
-- Plan ahead. If you know you are going to return to your car after nightfall, park in a well-lit area. Note your parking place.
-- If you feel uneasy returning to your car alone, find a security guard and ask him to walk you to your car.
-- Have your car keys in your hand to avoid spending unnecessary time unprotected from the security of your vehicle.
-- When approaching your car, check around it and in the back seat.