Contributed by Tom Odegaard, Executive Director, Evergreen Safety Council
Just in case you had not noticed, the holiday season has come once again..and here we are once again shopping for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. The malls and stores are full of people looking for that special gift for those special people in our lives. Don’t let thugs and thieves ruin your celebration. Here are some tips that can help prevent bad things from happening as you go about your shopping adventures.
As you plan your shopping trip, remember there IS safety in numbers. Try to shop with friends or relatives if possible.
What is the number one rule while for safety on the street, in the parking lot and while shopping in stores or a mall?
Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. The
first thing a thief or a thug looks for is the right opportunity which includes
an unsuspecting victim.
Here are some general safety tips that we hope will help you have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.
Travelling to/from the mall:
- Be observant. Avoid dark areas, short-cuts, cul-de-sacs.
- Do not pick up hitchhikers.
- Keep your doors locked.
- Do not stop for strangers – if there appears to be an emergency – CALL 9-1-1 from inside your locked vehicle.
- If signaled to stop by any vehicle other than a clearly marked law enforcement unit, acknowledge the signal, and wave the driver to follow you to a safe location (where there are other people and light). Drive within the speed limit and take the shortest possible route to the nearest safe place. If you have a cellular phone, dial 9-1-1, tell the call-taker you are being followed by an unmarked vehicle attempting to stop you, and ask them to send a marked law enforcement vehicle to your location.
- Carry an emergency kit in your vehicle
Taking public transportation:
- Be alert. Do not read while waiting for the bus or train. It shows a criminal you are not paying attention.
- Make eye contact. Do not appear to be a helpless victim. Carry yourself with confidence, don’t appear not humble and weak.
- Carry exact change/tokens for the ride. Don’t display large amounts of cash.
- Look around and pay attention to your gut feelings or instincts. If you feel bad about a situation, you feel right.
Parking lot safety:
- Park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your windows shut.
- Put valuables (and packages) out of sight in your vehicle, preferably in the trunk. If your vehicle doesn't have one, out of plain view (on the floorboard, under a blanket or clothes, etc).
- Be alert - Know your surroundings. Walk with confidence to and from the mall/store. Keep an eye on the people in front of as well as behind you. Don’t stop to talk with strangers.
- Carry your purse close to your body. Don't swing it loosely. Don't display large amounts of cash.
- Approach your vehicle with your keys already in your hand. Be ready to unlock the door and enter as quickly as possible. While approaching your vehicle, scan the area, glance underneath the vehicle, and take a quick look inside before entering.
- Try not to carry too many packages at one time-make periodic trips to your vehicle.
- Stay alert while loading items into or out of the vehicle or arranging cargo stowage. If someone approaches, and you feel threatened, get in and lock up until they leave the area; if they loiter, drive away and contact security or the police.
- Ask for an escort to your car if you feel nervous.
Remember: Using debit or credit cards is much safer than carrying a lot of cash.
In store/mall safety tips:
As you shop, be alert in crowded places. Be aware of your surroundings; scan the area from time to time. Avoid concentrating so hard on shopping that you fail to keep track of your surroundings, others near you, or your personal property.
- Among pickpockets' favorites are revolving doors, jammed aisles, elevators, and public transportation stops and vehicles, especially at rush hour.
- Carry the day's most expensive purchases closest to your body, and don't carry so much you lose the ability to react quickly.
- While shopping do not leave your purse in your cart while you go to pick up items.
- Do not flash cash and only carry the credit card you will need.
- Wear conservative, comfortable clothing.
Children & Shopping:
If possible, leave your children with a baby-sitter while you are shopping. For holiday shopping, consider making arrangements with family or friends/neighbors, and take turns baby-sitting.
- If you take your children with you:
- Be Alert! Keep a close eye on them while shopping.
- Teach your children to go to a store clerk or security guard if they ever get separated from you in a store/mall, and be sure they know their first and last name so they can tell someone who they are.
- It's best to keep children under four (4) in a stroller. Children in shopping carts should be properly belted and seated in the child carrier area at all times —never let your child stand in or push a shopping cart.
With all of these safety tips, all of us at Evergreen Safety Council wish you and yours a safe and very enjoyable shopping experience.