Take a few precautions when you venture out to shop.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My family & I were shopping in Memphis this weekend, and I noticed a billboard that read "Stow It, Don't Show It" and "Park Smart." This is the Memphis Police campaign urging citizens to take extra precautions when shopping. As of last Monday, Memphis police had recorded a total of 9,381 vehicle break-ins in 2008. Thieves often act quickly after a break-in. They go on shopping sprees with your debit and credit cards and often turn ID's over to people to open accounts in the victims' names.

We always think that "this can't happen to me" or "I am always aware of my surroundings." There are outside things that can distract us or we sometimes get so routine with our lifestyle, but it only takes one time and we are not always aware of everything. Protect yourself.

Here are some tips to reduce the threat of having a vehicle burglarized:

*Lock the doors.

*Don't leave cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices in the car.

*If possible, lock valuables in the trunk before arriving at your destination. You never know who might be watching.

*Report any suspicious people loitering or cruising parking lots and residential areas.

*Never leave your purse out of sight or unattended. When approaching your vehicle, the first thing you should do is put your purse inside the vehicle usually the front seat and lock the car doors except for where you are putting your packages.

*Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

*When wearing a shoulder bag, keep the flap against your body.

*Only put items in your bag that you will need for that occasion.

*If your bag or packages are stolen, report immediately to police or security guard and the loss of credit or debit cards to the card issuers

It's also important to protect yourself at the mall in other parking lot situations. It's when you're far from the crowd, in distant reaches of parking lots or other isolated areas of the mall that you are most vulnerable. To protect yourself:

*Park as close to entrances and exits as you can. No one wants to circle the lot for an hour waiting for a good spot to open up, but give it a shot, at least for a few minutes.

*If forced to the far reaches of a lot -- or even beyond the lot -- seek a spot that's well-lighted or near a well-traveled roadway. Stow your purchases in the trunk. When you're weighed down with packages, you may be tempted to throw them in the back seat and return to the mall to continue shopping. Would be criminals watch for you to approach your vehicle and return to the store so use caution.

*Always try to walk to and from your vehicle with another person. If you are shopping alone, consider walking near other shoppers in the parking lot.

*If shopping alone and leaving at night -- particularly if you're carrying several bundles -- ask a security officer to accompany you to your car. Most malls will provide that service.

*Inside a mall, avoid darkened hallways and other backroom areas, especially near closing time.

*Avoid using bathrooms that are tucked away in a back area of a mall concourse or department. If you can, find a bathroom near the mall's food court or other well-trafficked area. And always accompany your child to the bathroom.

*Never use a video arcade or toy store as a baby sitter; predators are on the prowl for unattended children. More then 100,000 children are abducted every year -- often in malls or department stores, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCME).

*Find out whether the malls and stores you frequent have procedures to search for a missing child. Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target are among retailers participating in a program developed by the NCME. The program, called "Code Adam," was named after Adam Walsh, a 6-year-old Florida boy who was killed after being abducted from a shopping mall in 1981. As soon as a child is reported missing, employees scour the aisles. If the child doesn't turn up after 10 minutes, the police are notified.

*Try to carry a can of mace with you and it is a good idea to have it available on a keychain. It wouldn't do you any good if tucked away in a purse.

*When going to and from your car, take your keys out while still inside and place a key firmly between your ring finger & index finger sticking through. This can be used as a "couching" weapon if necessary.

*Before entering your vehicle, check that no one is hiding in the back seat.

Have a safe and joyous holiday.