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Safe Shopping Practices

Nov 09, 2016 08:07AM ● By News Desk

Shopping season is again upon us! Although we complain about the rampant commercialism, the horrible traffic and crowded stores that herald the season, truth is, we absolutely look forward to indulging in our annual ritual of conspicuous consumption, especially splurging on our loved ones. We experience the thrill of victory when we find that special gift, discover an amazing discount, or grab a coveted parking spot! The furthest thing from our minds is that while we’ve been sizing up bargains, someone else has been sizing us up as their next victim.

With the great Christmas rush and excitement come great opportunity for predators. Remember, it’s the busy season for criminals too. Being street smart, they’re expert readers of our facial expressions and body language, and they scan stores and parking lots for the distracted, the fatigued, and the careless. The good news is that by following a few simple safe-shopping techniques, you can greatly reduce your risk of being victimized while safely enjoying the holidays.

Strike a confident pose. Criminals avoid confident types who might resist or fight back. Stand tall and project an air of calm self-assurance.

Be aware of your surroundings. Stay alert and always assume that you and other shoppers are being assessed as potential targets. No need to be paranoid, just mindful. Scan for anyone who appears to do more loitering than shopping. Keep tabs on those who seem a bit too friendly and interested in you.

Trust your gut. Do NOT dismiss your intuition. If you feel you’re being watched, you probably are. If this happens, do not isolate yourself by walking off alone or leaving the premises. Instead, casually walk toward and cluster around other shoppers. Your safest bet is to gravitate to the nearest employee or security guard. Voice your concern to them. If your suspect is innocent, you’ve done them no harm by alerting others.

Never make eye contact with or talk to a stranger who invades your space or tries to strike up a conversation. A would-be assailant will prey on your good nature by asking for help or distracting you with simple questions, such as asking for directions or the time. Excuse yourself and walk away, even if they seem harmless.

There’s safety in numbers. Predators prefer an isolated target. When possible, shop with a friend or in a group. Bring your cell phones, and make sure they are powered on to establish a system of contact should someone become separated from the pack. Which leads to our next tip:

Always have your cell phone readily available should you need to call 911. Do not use your phone to text or play games while at the food court, in the public restroom, or when walking to and from your car. You will lose track of your surroundings and become vulnerable.

Ask for security escort. When you think you’re being followed, ask the security guard to escort you to your car and not leave until you’ve gotten inside and locked your doors. If a guard is unavailable, wait to exit with other shoppers.Have your keys ready before exiting the store. Many car keys have a (red) panic button that will sound the car horn and cause attention. They also can be used as a weapon to scratch or cut an attacker.

When in trouble, scream! If you find yourself under attack, holler at the top of your lungs! If in your car, blow the horn and don’t let up. The last thing a criminal wants is attention.

Do not loiter in the parking lot. We have a bad habit of hanging out in our cars, becoming sitting ducks for thieves and carjackers. Once inside your vehicle, lock it, start the engine and leave.

With these tips in mind, you’ll virtually guarantee a safe arrival home, and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is keeping your gifts hidden until Christmas Day!