Theft occurs more during the Christmas shopping season due to shoppers carrying more cash and buying more high-priced items, said Dunwoody Police Officer Tim Fecht.
“We want shoppers to have a good time, but also be alert and aware while out at the malls,” he said.
Fecht said being aware of the surrounding area and staying safe should start as soon as a shopper enters the parking lot.
“When parking, stay in well-lit areas and never leave valuables in the car,” he said.
“Also, put bags, purses and briefcases away from view. We’ve had many reports of people breaking in to cars because they saw a bag and wanted to know if anything valuable was inside.”
While shopping, Fecht said it is important to keep “a watchful eye” on a purse or wallet.
“Pick-pocketing tends to happen more frequently during the holidays,” he said.
Although many shoppers will be splurging on high-priced electronics, Fecht said those items should be saved for last on the shopping to-do list.
“We want people to save big purchases, such as computers and TVs, for the ending of their shopping trips so those items aren’t visible in the car while shopping continues,” he said.
If a crime does occur, Fecht said it is important to be a good witness but remain safe.
“If you see the theft occur, try to remember specific details about the person to give a good description,” he said.
“If possible, note the kind of vehicle they drive and the tag number, but do not risk injury by chasing after the perpetrator.”
Mekka Parish, public information officer for the DeKalb County Police Department, added the following tips for staying safe while shopping:
-Avoid shopping alone, especially at night
-Minimize distractions such as talking on a cell phone and texting while walking to and from a car
-Look up while walking and pay attention to surroundings
-Be prepared to enter a vehicle immediately with keys in hand
-Carry credit cards rather than large amounts of cash
-Put purchased items in the trunk rather than the back seat of a car
-Call 911 if suspicious activity occurs.
“We aim to increase police visibility to curb the opportunity for criminal activities common during the holidays, but we want to remind shoppers to be vigilant about safety,” Parish said.