Protect Yourself at the Shopping Mall

Stay safe for a happy holiday season

The weather has turned chilly and the calendar on your desk worn thin - the holiday shopping season is upon us once again. As people rush to the malls for bargains, you may think navigating the over-spilling parking lot and fighting for a parking spot is your challenge of the day. Think again. Parking lots are where most of mall-related crimes occur, according to law enforcement officials. Thieves love the crowds, too. At a time when everyone is trying the beat the next guy for the last available 50%-off LED TV, the absent-minded become easy preys. But a few simple precautions can help save your holiday spirit:

Park where you are easily seen. It won’t be easy when it seems the whole world is shopping, but it’s worth it to be a little choosy and drive around a bit to find a spot in a populated and bright area. Criminals are like rats; they don’t like to be seen by people, and they hate light. The higher risk of being identified in the spot light will be enough to thwart them. So don’t settle on a parking spot in a dark, remote location, especially when you are alone.

Lock your car and hide valuables. Most car-related thefts happen for one most obvious reason: people simply fail to lock the doors and close the windows. Many thieves just walk around the parking lot in search of such easy targets and then grab and go. Besides locking the door, don’t forget to hide away valuables such as GPS units, cell phones, and tablets, etc. For portable GPS units, the windshield mount, or even the power cable is a dead giveaway that the device is in the car, which is very tempting for the criminals. The same goes for those aftermarket stereo units. You’d better remove the faceplate and either hide it or take it with you.

Be aware of your surroundings. People don’t pay as much attention as they used to while walking. These days wherever you go, you see people looking down at their smart phones, talking on the phone, or are plugged in with their music devices, totally oblivious to what is happening around them. They have no chance to protect themselves when the criminals come up from behind and grab their stuff. So do yourself a favor, look to your front, side and back when walking to and from a store, if not for preventing from being a crime victim, at least help reduce your chance of being hit by a car.

Assume you are being watched. The deals are irresistible; you’ve bought too much for you to handle so you carry your purchase out and leave it in your car and then walk back to the mall for some more. Criminals often watch and patiently wait for this moment. Once you are gone, it will only take the pros minutes to break in and take your items, even if you’ve locked them in the trunk. So if you do need to stow your new purchase, try to find a new spot to park your car, far enough away from anyone who might be doing surveillance. It may seem a bit inconvenient, better safe than sorry. If your mall offer storage lockers or agrees to hold your stuff for you until you finish shopping, all the better.

Appear that you know what you are doing. With the malls being so big these days, you may forget where you’ve parked your car once in a while. But don’t show that you are lost by wandering around, which can increase your chance of becoming a target. When you do find your car, don’t dally; have you keys ready before you leave the store and walk straight to it. A few seconds could be enough to save you from becoming a car-jacking victim. Once you are in your car, lock the door immediately and drive off as sitting in your idling car poses another risk.

Stay away from strangers. There are always people walking around in the parking lot during the busy holiday shopping season. But your instinct can tell you if you are being followed. When this happens, go back to the store and alert security. If you are already approached or even chased, yell or scream for attention; you will likely get intervention or scare the thugs away. If you are followed while driving, go to a well-lit and populated area such as an open gas station, and don’t hesitate to flag down a police officer. And of course, get on your cell phone and call 911.

The holiday season is a special and joyous time of the year. Shopping for loved ones could be stressful at times, but being able to protect yourself from becoming a crime victim will help preserve more of your joy and happiness.

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