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Keyword: holiday shopping

By Natalie Litofsky, Baltimore County Police and Fire

With the holidays just days away, shopping centers are bustling with activity. But while you’re checking your list twice, resourceful thieves are looking to help themselves to your gifts. Distracted or forgetful shoppers are often targets for criminals during the peak holiday shopping season.

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take the time to properly secure your purchases.

These tips will help you shop with safety in mind.

At the shops

  • Carry a purse or shoulder bag close to your body, not dangling by straps.
  • Put a wallet in an inside pocket of your coat or front pants pocket.
  • Don’t carry or display a large amount of cash while out shopping.
  • For larger or more expensive items, find out if the store will deliver the purchase. This avoids the uncertainty of carrying the item through a mall or parking lot.
  • If you are ready to leave the mall and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay in the mall and ask for a security escort.

At the car

  • Always walk and park in well-lit areas. This includes parking lots, garages and street parking.
  • Don’t talk on a cell phone when walking from shops. The conversation is distracting and the phone itself may be a target for thieves.
  • When you return to your vehicle after your shopping trip, lock your car door as soon as you get in.
  • Do not leave valuables – gifts, cell phones, purse or clothing – in open view in your car. Take valuables with you, lock them in your trunk, or cover them in an unobtrusive way.

At home

  • When returning home after a shopping trip, be sure to have the house keys in your hand, ready to use when you reach the door.
  • Leave lights turned on both inside and outside your residence after dark. It deters thieves and ensures you’re returning home from shopping to a well-lit environment.
  • If you leave wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree, make sure they cannot be seen from the window. This is an easy target for burglars.
  • If you will be away from home for several days, make arrangements for someone to pick up your mail and newspapers. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign that no one is home, and burglars are tempted to check those envelopes for holiday gifts.

If you ever feel unsafe while out shopping, walk into the nearest shop or restaurant and ask an employee to call 911. If you’re not near a shop, don’t hesitate to yell. It’s better to make noise over nothing than to be silent and compromise your safety.

Revised September 26, 2016