Shop cautiously
by Rory Doyle
Nov 27, 2012 | 1044 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While parents and grandparents are up against the clock this holiday shopping season, it remains imperative that shoppers not fall victim to criminals on the prowl.

Not everyone is out with a good cause during the holidays and there are a number of ways for consumers to protect themselves.

Cleveland Police Chief Charles "Buster" Bingham said it all begins with self-awareness.

"During the holiday season shoppers need to pay extra attention to their surroundings," he said. “Usually around this time of year car and home burglaries increase.

"People need to remain aware to better protect themselves and their property.”

Bingham said leaving valuables in cars should be a last resort and especially don't leave them visible.

"Park in well lit spaces and try to shop in groups when possible," he added. "If you see a suspicious person or vehicle, get as much information as you can — what clothing the person is wearing, height, weight, make, model, color and tag numbers."

The chief also recommended keeping keys handy before leaving the store for easy access to vehicles, protecting wallets and purses, not shopping with large wads of cash and not wearing expensive jewelry.

"There's no reason to draw extra attention to oneself while out shopping."

Here are a few more tips on remaining safe during the holiday season:

• Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If shopping at night is a must, go with a friend or family member.

• Dress casually and comfortably.

• Even when rushed and thinking about many things, stay alert to surroundings.

• Keep cash in front pockets.

• Notify the credit card issuer immediately if credit cards are lost, stolen or misused. • Avoid overloading with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.

• Beware of strangers approaching for any reason. At this time of year, "con-artists" may try various methods of distraction with the intention of taking money or belongings.

Bingham also said home burglaries tend to go up at this time of the year, and it takes a community effort to help keep these incidents down.

"It's a very good idea for neighborhoods to activate a neighborhood watch program," Bingham said. "It makes it a lot easier for the police department to be proactive and reactive.

“Criminals are less likely to commit a crime in a neighborhood where they know if someone sees anything out of the ordinary, they will report it."

Combating those with poor intentions requires a communal effort.

"If everyone remains vigilant and watches out for each other, we'll eliminate a lot of problems," said Bingham.

"And if you do run into a problem, notify the police immediately — don't wait two hours because you're hesitant."

For more information on starting a neighborhood watch, contact the Cleveland Police Department at 662-843-3611.