Holiday Shopping Safety Tips
December 4, 2014
MALL & SHOPPING SAFETY
Don't let criminals be your "scrooge" this holiday. Take a few precautions when you venture out to do holiday shopping and you will "take a bite out of crime".
PERSONAL SAFETY AT MALLS
The threat of physical assault does not necessarily increase along with crowds that herald the holiday season. It's when you're far from the crowd, in distant reaches of parking lots or other isolated areas of the mall that you are most vulnerable. To protect yourself:
Always try to walk to and from your vehicle with another person. If you are shopping alone, consider walking near other shoppers in the parking lot.
If shopping alone and leaving at night -- particularly if you're carrying several bundles -- ask a security officer to accompany you to your car. Most malls will provide that service.
Inside a mall, avoid darkened hallways and other backroom areas, especially near closing time.
Avoid using bathrooms that are tucked away in a back area of a mall concourse or department. If you can, find a bathroom near the mall's food court or other well-trafficked area. And always accompany your child to the bathroom.
Never use a video arcade or toy store as a babysitter; predators are on the prowl for unattended children. More then 100,000 children are abducted every year -- often in malls or department stores, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCME).
Find out whether the malls and stores you frequent have procedures to search for a missing child. Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target are among retailers participating in a program developed by the NCME. The program, called "Code Adam," was named after Adam Walsh, a 6 year old Florida boy who was killed after being abducted from a shopping mall in 1981. As soon as a child is reported missing, employees scour the aisles. If the child doesn't turn up after 10 minutes, the police are notified.
SHOPPING CART SAFETY
It is estimated that about 21,600 children end up in the hospital each year after they've fallen -- or even leaped -- from shopping carts, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign. Children 5 years old and younger, particularly boys. are especially at risk. Shopping cart injuries include head and neck trauma, fractures, lacerations and damage to internal organs. Three children have died. Part of the problem is that shopping carts can tip over easily because the wheel base is narrow. Adding to a cart's instability, children have a hard time sitting still. Statistics compiled by the National Safe Kids Campaign show that 80 percent of parents leave their children unattended at least once during a shopping trip. The only way to keep children safe is to stay with the cart at all times. Even if you strap your child into the car seat, he may still manage to tip the cart over. Just wiggling out of the harness or seat belt can quickly unbalance an already unstable load. To keep shopping carts from tipping over:
Place young children in the seat, not the basket.
If the cart comes equipped with a harness, use it. Otherwise, bring your own.
If you've got a child walking alongside you, make sure he does not try to climb inside the cart to join his brother or sister. You might want to pack a second child into a stroller -- although it's cumbersome, it's safer.
It's not a good idea to let a child push or steer the cart for you. He may not see or be seen by shoppers and could be struck or run over by other carts. Those miniature carts some stores supply for children to push pose the same problem, so stay close by and make sure your shopper-in-training follows the flow of traffic.
PICKPOCKETS AND PURSE THEFT PREVENTIONS
Jostling through crowded malls while carrying your jacket, juggling countless bags and keeping your child from breaking anything you can't afford to buy makes you an attractive target to criminals looking to grab wallets, purses and your purchases. To stymie would-be thieves:
A man should carry his wallet in the front pocket of his pants, rather than in a back pocket or in his jacket. A woman should hold her purse close to her body, with the opening facing toward her; when walking with another person, the purse should be held between the two.
When you can, avoid using revolving doors -- particularly the automatic kind. A thief with good timing can grab a purse or package and make a quick getaway in the time it takes you to emerge.
Consolidate purchases into one or two large shopping bags so you can keep track of everything. Never leave your purchases unattended, even for a few minutes.
Consider using a special fanny pack designed to foil pickpockets.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe holiday season. These tips are meant to contribute to that spirit.