Fayette law officers caution holiday shoppers on crime perils


Fayetteville Police and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office want shoppers to stay safe and aware during the holiday shopping season. With that in mind, both agencies are providing tips to help ensure safer holiday shopping.

Fayetteville Police say shopping during the holiday season can present unique dangers when busy people become careless and vulnerable to theft and other crimes. Taking a few preventative measures can help keep the holiday season joyous, officers said. Those measures include:

• Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.

• If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member.

• Valuables and packages left in vehicles should be kept out of sight.

• Lock your car and close the windows even if you will be away for only a few minutes.

• Watch your purse, wallet and checkbook while you shop.

• Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings.

• Do not let people distract you. Some thieves work in pairs: while one person asks for your help reading a label or retrieving items off of shelves the other is stealing your valuables.

• Always double check that the sales clerk returned your credit card and driver’s license.

• Never let your credit card out of your sight.

• Be cautious of money scams (putting your money with their money or cashing a check for someone).

• Drive safely and always wear your seatbelt, even on short trips.

• Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused.

• Be alert to any activity near your car.

• Report suspicious activity immediately.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office also advised that shoppers be alert and aware during the busy holiday shopping season.

During the holiday season, busy people intent on trying to complete their Christmas shopping may fall prey to unscrupulous criminals who lurk in mall and shopping center parking lots, doing their “shopping” from the packages placed in parked vehicles, said Sheriff Wayne Hannah. Some foresight and planning can reduce the chances of becoming a victim during a season that should be a joyous and loving celebration, he said.

Deputies note that safety begins in the parking lot:

• Once in your chosen space, look around before leaving your car.

• Is there anyone in the vicinity watching you?

• Do you see anyone loitering? If so, remain in your car and watch them for a moment. If they move on, that’s fine, but if not, you might consider moving to a new parking space.

• If you feel uncertain or unsafe about a situation you observe, take steps to move yourself to a safer location.

• Don’t assume you are being foolish or paranoid.

• When shopping at night, look for well-lit parking spaces.

Deputies say would-be thieves and robbers are looking for the easiest targets. If you show that you are aware of what is happening around you and move with a sense of purpose, you are less likely to become a victim.

Another safety suggestion is to keep your head up and scanning the area while looking forward to the right and left and even checking behind as you walk.

“Awareness is your greatest defense,” said the officers. “Don’t search through a purse or bags in the parking lot. If you must look for something, make sure you are in the safety of the store before you become absorbed in your hunt for a tissue, shopping list or other item.”

Purses should be carried close to your body and not dangling by the straps. Consider placing wallets in an inside coat pocket or front pants pocket. Do not carry credit cards you don’t need or large amounts of cash.

If you store items in your vehicle, make sure they are covered or concealed. If you are putting bags in your vehicle and returning to shop, move your car from time to time in case someone is watching you. Don’t leave valuables in view inside your car. If valuables or interesting packages are out of sight, a thief will be less tempted to break in to steal them, deputies said.

Finally, if leaving late from a shopping mall or store, don’t hesitate to ask a store employee for help.

“Don’t accept the kind offer of the ‘stranger’ who meets you outside the door and offers assistance,” deputies cautioned. “It may be a kind and generous offer, but it could also be a ploy to gain access to your belongings. When returning to your car, check the front seat, the back seat, and the floor area before entering.”