Sheriff Mancuso offers tips on staying safe while shopping

By Special to the American Press

Shoppers are making their lists and

checking them twice. But they are probably neglecting to check their

safety. Just how

safe is shopping at this time of the year? Perhaps not nearly as

safe as people assume it to be, according to Calcasieu Parish

Sheriff Mancuso — especially if people shop alone.

This time of year has a tendency to attract more shopping-related criminal activity because of larger crowds and extended

store hours. These factors, combined with the usual distraction related to shopping, create a more favorable environment

for petty thieves and other offenders.

Mancuso warns shoppers to be on their guard so that they do not become one of the tens of millions of people a year who are

victimized by some sort of criminal activity.

Across the U.S., malls and shopping centers are heightening security measures by hiring additional security personnel and

installing surveillance cameras in areas such as parking lots and entrance ways.

“Unfortunately, when shopping, people sometimes have a tendency to become distracted and lose sight of their personal safety,”

Mancuso said. “However, there are several precautions busy shoppers can take to help eliminate their chances of becoming a

crime statistic.”

Mancuso suggests busy shoppers take some safety precautions to reduce their chances of being victimized by criminals who thrive

on shoppers at this time of the year. Those safety precautions include:

Before you leave

• 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 to avoid taking young children into busy shopping areas, but if it is unavoidable, make sure they know what to do if they

lose you, such as to tell the nearest counter assistant that they are lost and to never leave a shop without you. Agree on a meeting point

with older children just 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.

While shopping

• 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 always 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 cellphone for easy access to emergency services.

Parking lot safety

• Don’t leave lots of presents on display in a parked car because they could tempt thieves. Remember, out of sight, out of mind. Lock your car doors.

• Plan ahead. If you know you are going to return to your car after nightfall, park in a well-lit area.

• 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.