Tips for staying safe while holiday shopping
by Rachel Davis
Nov 29, 2013 | 1159 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The holiday shopping season kicks off today, but local police are warning residents that it is also one of the worst times of year for stealing, particularly from vehicles.

Black Friday shoppers often return to their car with packages to unburden themselves before heading back into the mall or shopping center for a second round of purchases. For years, shoppers have been urged to keep packages and purses out of sight by locking them in the trunk or other area where they aren’t easily visible to potential thieves.

That’s still good advice, according to Sumiton Assistant Police Chief Scott Karr, but he said holiday shoppers need to be more vigilant than ever this holiday season as law enforcement is seeing new scams to take advantage of unsuspecting citizens. An alert Karr sent out last week to the members of the Sumiton-area Business Alliance warned of a new type of thieves called “sliders.”

These thieves pull up to a fuel pump next to a vehicle as they are also purchasing fuel. While the unsuspecting driver is distracted by fueling their car, a passenger slips from the other vehicle, remains low and removes the purse, packages or other valuables from the target’s vehicle, before sliding back into their own car and driving away. Although Karr said his department hadn’t had any reports of this specific type of incident, it has been happening all over the country.

He urged motorists to never leave their vehicles unlocked, even if they remain beside their cars.

“A lot of people don’t think about that risk at gas stations, but, especially during this ‘stealing season,’ people need to be more aware and cautious of their surroundings,” Karr said.

Other tips from police:

•Shop with friends, if possible. There is safety in numbers. If you are shopping alone, try to walk across the parking lot with a group and stay in well-lit areas.

•Have your keys in hand before you leave the safety of the store. Don't wait to search for your keys when you reach your car.

•Don’t leave your purse unattended in shopping carts.

•Since holiday shopping crowds are often so dense, avoid carrying a purse if possible.

•If you are going to lock your purse in your trunk, do so before arriving at your destination. Criminals often lurk in parking lots, looking for those potential targets.

•Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Use debit or credit cards and keep them in a holder on your person.

•Ask security officers or store associates to assist you, where available.