The excitement, the anxiety, and the chaos all contribute to “distractions” that cause us to be less conscious of our safety. The Holiday Season is filled with excitement but it is also full of opportunity for criminals to ruin your season.

Unfortunately, there are those who prey upon the unsuspecting and vulnerable.

Every year we as police officers take reports of those who were followed from the mall or department stores, their car loaded with gifts and packages; only to have criminals break into their cars at the first opportunity and clean them out. What a sickening feeling to return to your car and realize everything you have purchased, all the time and effort you spent selecting that perfect gift for a loved one, has vanished in a few seconds.

But there are ways to prevent this from happening to you. And you can share your information with other relatives and friends to also be safe. Please do so! It just may help someone from being a victim.

• Stay Alert and Aware of your surroundings • Make Sure you are not being followed as you leave malls or stores after making purchases
• Do not place your gifts or purchases in plain view within your car. Secure them in your trunk
• Avoid making other stops after shopping, • When you leave your car, you are vulnerable to break-ins.
• Be extremely careful when and where you use ATM’s to get money. The hour, location and lighting are very important.
• Do not be distracted by being on the phone or wearing headphones, neglecting your safety.
• When walking to and from your vehicle be ready to enter your vehicle if you are confronted. Be aware of your surroundings and do not hesitate to scream to get attention if you are accosted.
• Do not fumble or procrastinate when placing gifts or your purse in your car. Be Ready, Be Confident, Be Alert!
• Park in well-lit areas, near a light pole, avoid distant or darkened spaces away from the stores.
• Do not think you are being rude if someone approaches you for information and you suspect foul play. This is a common ruse used for distraction while they are ripping you off.
• Maintain physical control of your purse or pocket book at all time. Do not set it down to try on that pair of shoes – no matter how gorgeous.
• Beware of pick-pockets this time of the year. They are professionals and you won’t even realize you are a victim. Try keeping valuables in your front pants pocket. Men, this means you.
• While grocery shopping, do not get trapped by someone asking you for help or idle chit-chat. Direct them to store personnel for help, they may be trying to distract your attention away from your purse or valuables.
• If you feel you are being followed or targeted, continue driving to a safe area, or look for a police officer or fire or police station to pull into.

Remember, if your gut feeling tells you something is amiss, it may well be! Follow your instincts.

Hoping you enjoy a Safe, Blessed and Happy Holiday Season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By Crime Prevention Specialist Sandra Block and Chief Fred Maas Sunny Isles Beach Police Department

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