Going Shopping?

Below are various articles on shopping safety in addition to our mall shopping safety page.

Minimizing Your Risk

Safety Tips for Holiday Shopping

Thieves distract shoppers, steal from handbags and wallets

Car burglaries common, but easy to prevent


Minimizing Your Risk

by Rick Leventhal

Editor's note: On Friday, October 13, the body of Michelle Gardner-Quinn was discovered by police near Huntington Gorge in Richmond. For the latest information on this sad story, please read the news article on FOXNews.com.

October 12, 2006

Because of the disappearance and suspected abduction of 21-year-old college student Michelle Gardner-Quinn at the University of Vermont, Burlington police hosted a couple of safety forums on and off campus — reminding students, especially women, how to minimize their risk of becoming victims of violent crimes.

Some of the suggestions are common sense, others may seem unnecessary, but all bear repeating.

Here is the Burlington PD's checklist of ways to better protect yourself:

1. Don’t get complacent, no matter how safe you think your town is.

2. Travel in groups or pairs, not alone.

3. Walk with confidence.

4. Always be aware of your surroundings.

5. If a situation gives you a funny feeling, trust your gut. Get away, or be loud to call attention to yourself.

6. Stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets or parking areas.

7. Walk with your keys in hand, and look into, around, and under your vehicle before you get in.

8. Walk toward the middle of the sidewalk, not too close to shrubs, walls, or potential hiding places.

9. If you think someone is following you, cross the street, move to the nearest group of people, or ask for help.

10. Keep purses and bags close to your body and don't carry too much stuff.

11. If someone tries to rob you, give up your valuables immediately.

12. If someone is following you in your car, drive to a police station or busy store or restaurant. Take down a plate number if you can. Call police if it won't compromise your safety.

13. Report suspicious behavior to police.

14. Minimize places around your home where people can hide, such as large plants or shrubs.

15. Keep windows and doors locked.

If all this seems too much to remember, stick with the first five, it won't hurt you, and it just might help.

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Safety Tips for Holiday Shopping
How to Stay Safe at Malls, Department Stores and Shopping Centers

By Sarah, published Nov 12, 2007

Many criminals - purse snatchers, muggers, and even worse types of bad guys - like the holiday shopping season because there are so many potential victims at malls, shopping centers and discount-department stores. Many shoppers are out by themselves, sometimes late at night. Most victims have money to spend - and some have lots of it on hand in their purses or wallets. And when there's a large crowd, it's easier to become distracted, which is exactly what criminals want.

Here are a few tips to help you, the savvy shopper, avoid becoming a victim this holiday season. Most apply year round, actually, so feel free to incorporate them into your everyday life.

* Leave as much cash as possible at home. The less you flash at the register, the less attractive you are to a nearby criminal. This also applies to credit and debit cards. Take as few of them as possible when you go shopping. If somebody grabs your wallet or purse, you have fewer calls to make to cancel those cards.

* Take a shopping buddy with you. This is practical because you'll have some help finding stores in the mall, carrying packages to your car, et cetera. This is also important because criminals tend to pick off solo shoppers. Not many bad guys or gals will go after groups of people - especially if the people in that group are all paying attention to their surroundings.

* When you take an armload of purchases to your car, lock them in the trunk. It's also a good idea to go ahead and pull out of that parking spot - even if you're not ready to leave the mall or shopping center just yet. Leaving that parking spot will deter any thief who's waiting for you to load up and go back inside. He or she will think that you're leaving the premises, not just moving to a different spot. And when you pull in to the new spot, people who might be watching won't often guess that you've already loaded down your trunk with valuable goods.

* Walking to and from your car can be unnerving if you don't know how to do it safely. Before you leave the store, fish out your car keys. You don't want to be standing in a dark parking garage, fumbling around outside of your car. When you reach your car, get in and immediately lock your doors. Do this before you put on your seat belt, start your engine or turn on the radio. Your goal is to get out of the parking spot as quickly as possible: otherwise, you could be a sitting target.

* Constantly look around at fellow shoppers. You don't have to stare at people. That's rude and, to be honest, a little creepy. Looking around at other people - instead of being absorbed in your shoes, or your shopping bags, or whatever else - deters many criminals. They don't want you to know that they're coming. They'd prefer to jump the person who appears to be in his or her own little universe, not paying any attention to what's happening.

* If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, ask a store employee for help. Many retailers will find somebody to walk you to your car, especially after dark.

We shouldn't have to be afraid of criminals or their activities during this wonderful time of the year. These tips will help you stay safe and enjoy your holiday shopping.

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Thieves distract shoppers, steal from handbags and wallets
Thieves target older residents in the aisles of markets, stores

By Jerome Burdi | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 29, 2008

Three distraction thefts in less than 20 minutes Saturday at a Boynton Beach store left victims in disbelief at how quickly they were duped by a well-dressed, respectful thief.

The victims at the Wal-Mart on the 3200 block of Old Boynton Road fit the profile, police say, of what distraction thieves look for: older and trusting.

"They discover, 'My wallet's gone,'" sheriff's Detective Joseph Scarso said. "That gives [thieves] the advantage of escape."

The youngest victim, who was 63, reported that a well-dressed woman asked her about mailing labels while another took her wallet. A 79-year-old woman was asked about olive oil. A 75-year-old woman with a walker was asked about Soduku puzzle books.

And west of Delray Beach, Palm Beach County sheriff's detectives are investigating three distraction thefts that occurred between July 24 and Aug. 12 at the Winn-Dixie supermarket at Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail.

Boynton Beach police now have a public service video on YouTube.com warning about how to avoid distraction thefts.

"Perpetrators don't feel that the seniors are any threat to them," Crime Prevention Officer John Huntington says in the video. "The seniors are more [trusting] so they're more apt to have their attention drawn away from them."

The victim who was looking at word puzzles said she should have known better.

"It happens so fast," Saundra Murray said. "You blink your eye and it happened."

Murray was with her husband looking at the puzzle books when two women approached in the aisle.

"I always warn my kids about that," Murray said about minding her purse. The women "were nothing I would shy away from. " I wasn't concentrating on them at that time."

There was also nothing suspicious about the woman who asked Adriana Sciola what olive oil to buy.

"I put my pocketbook in my cart for an instant," Sciola said. "This very tall, well-dressed lady was well-spoken and very well-mannered. "Apparently, she wasn't a lady. She was a thief."

Police ask anyone with information about the thefts to call Crime Stoppers at 800-458-8477.

Jerome Burdi can be reached at jjburdi@SunSentinel.com or 561-243-6531.


Guarding against purse theft

August 29, 2008

Use a wallet in your front pants pocket instead of a purse.

If you must use a purse, choose one with a zipper or locking flap.

Carry the purse close to your body.

Be aware of your surroundings.

Be mindful of pickpockets.

Source: Boynton Beach police

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Car burglaries common, but easy to prevent

Warning: Thieves troll parking lots of shopping centers, day care centers, parks and beaches looking for cars to burglarize. They often target cars of women who are not carrying purses.

3:03 PM EDT, April 2, 2008

Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Thomas Palmer watches a woman walking in the parking lot of a Deerfield Beach fitness club and sees a potential victim.

"Chances are, she has a purse," Palmer says. The woman, dressed in workout gear, carries nothing but an MP3 player and a bottle of water. "Chances are, that purse is in the BMW. And she has no idea I just drove past."

Vehicle burglary may be one of the easiest crimes to prevent, but Palmer and other South Florida detectives are always talking to new victims. Some have had a few items ripped off. Others have had their identities stolen and their bank accounts raided. If you think like a criminal, a line of cars in a parking lot becomes a buffet of free electronic goods, cash, designer sunglasses and other people's credit cards.

Palmer looks in the vehicles.

"There you go, that's a GPS right there," he says, pointing at a windshield. "They're very popular right now."

Roland Valdivieso learned that the hard way.

The Lake Worth resident got a TomTom GPS unit for Christmas. A few weeks later, he parked in a Delray Beach lot to go to work. He returned to find his window smashed and his gift gone.

"I was mad at myself for leaving a GPS out there," Valdivieso said. "And it's a public parking lot in the middle of the day. How can this happen?"

Palmer pulls into the Deerfield Mall lot. Thieves troll shopping centers looking for a purse left on the passenger seat, a laptop on the floor or a cell phone in a cup tray.

Other common locations for car burglaries include beaches, banks, parks and playgrounds.

He says women seem to be targeted more often than men. Criminals watch day care centers and wait for a woman without a purse to go inside. They bank on the purse sitting in the car, he said. A few criminals have followed victims in their cars after seeing them leave an electronics store with items. If the victim goes to another business, the criminal breaks into the car.

Palmer says more often than not, victims shouldn't expect to get their goods back. Valdivieso said he doesn't plan to see his GPS ever again. But he's learned his lesson.

"I'm going to be more wary in parking lots," he said. "Mainly make sure that there's nothing left in my car, visible."

That's a good start. Take valuables with you and lock anything you must leave behind in your trunk. Don't leave anything in plain sight. If you can't hide an item in your trunk or car, take it home before going elsewhere.

Palmer has a couple of other suggestions:

* Copy down serial numbers on any electronics to make recovery easier. Fill out a home and personal inventory like this one.
* Never keep your Social Security card in a purse or wallet.
* Take as little with you as necessary when making routine trips to the store, school, etc.
* If you can, park inside your garage instead of in the driveway.

Throughout the morning, Palmer points to cars left unattended with windows down, cell phones and electronics charging in the console and other items that could be easily stolen.

"People say 'I'm only going to be gone for an hour, what can happen?'" he says. "A lot of things."

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