Q: My friend was Christmas shopping last year near the Third Street Promenade. He thinks he was pick-pocketed as he couldn’t find his wallet when he finally decided to buy something. What can anybody do to prevent themselves from being a victim like this or is there anything we can do?

A: The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year! Homes jam-packed with glittering gifts, department stores, shops, malls, and downtown streets all teeming with hopeful shoppers. Yet, with all of the hustle and bustle going on, people tend to forget that there are still crooks out there, just waiting to take advantage of all of the holiday season’s stresses and distractions. Shoppers, in particular, can become too focused on finding that one gift and in turn become careless and personally vulnerable to theft and other types of serious crime.

Please review the following information provided in the section below, and learn how to celebrate this holiday season safely while making it a crime free one as well.

Tips for the holiday shopper<p>

• Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you shop at night, ask a friend to accompany you.

• Do not wear expensive jewelry.

• Keep your purse closed and do not leave your wallet or checkbook visible.

• If you carry a purse, wear the strap so that it crosses in front of your body. Or hold it in front of you, keeping the flap against your body. Secure your purse between your body and your arm.

• Carry your wallet in an inside front pocket.

• Carry your keys in your pocket. You’ll be able to drive home if your purse is lost or stolen.

• Avoid carrying a lot of cash; take only the credit cards you plan to use.

• Avoid overloading yourself with packages.

• Do not leave your belongings and purchases unattended.

• Don’t advertise your purchases! Place all valuables/purchases in the trunk of your car.

• Keep a list of credit card agencies with their phone numbers in case you have to report a stolen or lost card.

• If you have to use an ATM, protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from those standing around or behind you.

General holiday safety tips<p>

If you’re traveling:

• Make sure that all doors and windows are locked.

• Draw your curtains, blinds, or drapes.

• Get an automatic timer for your lights.

• Alert your immediate neighbors that you will be gone, and for how long.

• Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail and any other items that might be delivered to your porch or front door step — on a daily basis.

If you are out for the evening:

• Turn on interior lights and a radio or TV so it looks like someone’s at home.

• Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

• Don’t display gifts where they can be seen from the outside.

Shopping with kids:

• Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.

If you own or manage a business, remember these tips to prevent shoplifting:

• Train staff to be courteous and alert. Thieves are less likely to steal if they think they are being watched.

• Display merchandise neatly in standard groups with three or four items per display so that sales personnel can easily notice if anything is missing.

• Place small, expensive items in secured display cases close to sales staff. Counters that are near exits are easy targets for “grab and run” thieves.

• When displaying clothes, turn every other hanger on the rack the opposite direction, as this also deters the “grab and run” thief.

• Display signs in your store that state “shoplifters will be prosecuted.”

• If you do suspect a customer has stolen an item, call the police immediately. You do not have to wait for the crime to take place to get the police heading your way. Be proactive!

• When you apprehend a shoplifter, contact the police department to determine what actions you should follow. Cooperate with law enforcement, and with the attorney prosecuting the case.

This column was prepared by NRO Robert Lucio (Beat 6: Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Centinela Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0686 or roberto.lucio@smgov.net.

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