Police department offers holiday shopping safety tips

Published 6:20 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Holiday shoppers can sometimes make easy targets for criminals, so the Selma Police Department has shared a few tips before Black Friday to keep people safe while out shopping during the holiday season.

Sgt. Mark Neely, public information officer, said the main piece of advice he has for shoppers is be aware.

“Because the crime rate is a little higher during the holidays … you’ve really got to be alert, Neely said. “There are going to be people who just don’t have it, and they’re going to want to get it, and you’re going to be the person they’re going to get it from.”

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Popular crimes during the holidays are robberies and burglaries, which could mean someone snatching a woman’s purse or pickpocketing a man’s wallet or even breaking into a home.

Being aware is the most important thing Neely said shoppers can do.

“Be aware of your surroundings. People that just look suspicious that are around you, just kind of wait until they move on before you get out,” he said. “A lot of times people are just talking and walking and are not aware of stuff going on.”

Instead of making a phone call or sending a text while on the way to the car, Neely suggested staying focused and being observant.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting until they get to their car to get their keys out.

“Sometimes people wait until they get to their vehicle to get their keys out,” he said. “While you’re in the store, go ahead and make sure you’ve got everything you need ready to go ahead and get in your car.”

Neely also suggested parking in a well-lit area and going shopping with family or friends or at peak times when there are plenty of other shoppers in and out of the store.

“Kind of stay with the crowd. Go while others are shopping,” he said. “Instead of going late where people are more prone to something happening, kind of stay with the crowd.”

Neely encouraged people to avoid leaving bags in their cars because that is an automatic target for criminals.

“Don’t leave any bags on your seats because criminals are opportunists. They might not necessarily target you, but if they see they’ve got some bags in the car, they’re going to go after it,” he said.

Shoppers should also avoid using cash or carrying large amounts of cash. Neely said using debit or credit cards is a better route to go. He also advised people to shy away from wearing fancy jewelry, which could make someone a target.

Something simple people can do is lock their car doors. Neely said some people are accustomed to leaving them unlocked, so be sure to double check they are locked before going inside a store.

After Christmas, Neely said not to leave boxes or other signs of big-ticket items inside the home by the roadside to be picked up by the trash trucks.

“Don’t leave large bags or boxes out by the trash. Try to break those down, burn them or toss them in a big dumpster,” Neely said. “That can turn into burglary right there. If they know you’ve got stuff, they’re coming in your house.”

Overall, Neely said he hopes people are smart while out shopping and keep their eyes and ears open. He said the department is increasing patrol during the holidays to make sure shoppers are safe. Over the next several weeks a mobile command center will be in use to monitor high-traffic areas and deter criminals from striking.