Shopping safety tips offered to local shoppers as Black Friday approaches

November 23, 2018

Many residents are gearing up for Black Friday, a time when stores offer amazing deals on limited merchandise, and shoppers line up early in hopes of being one of the lucky ones to get a good deal.

This shopping tradition, which always follows Thanksgiving, is a fun experience for some; however, Black Friday has also been known to cause chaos among shoppers who sometimes take it too far.

A local police officer offered residents some shopping safety tips for Black Friday and the rest of holiday season.

Lt. Jake Mahoney, with Aiken Public Safety, said many people don’t think about the fact that bad things can happen when they go shopping, especially during the holiday season. Being alert and focused is highly important for a shoppers personal safety, he said.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” Mahoney said. “Scan the area from time to time and look and see what other people are doing.”

This is especially important in parking lots, where pedestrians can be engrossed in texting on their cellphones or motorists can be focused on finding an empty parking spot rather than keeping an eye out for pedestrians, he said.

It’s also important to be alert in order to avoid becoming a victim of criminals who may be lurking in parking lots trying to spot a vulnerable victim.

“Criminals tend to come out during the holiday season, because people are walking around with pockets full of money and big expensive gifts,” Mahoney said. “Criminals definitely take advantage of this and, like a predator, wait around in parking lots until they spot their victim.”

When walking through a parking lot, present an “alert appearance,” he said.

Shoppers should have their keys in their hand and be ready to open their car door if they’re walking outside, and women should carry their purses firmly tucked under an arm. It’s also important for people to dress conservatively and try not to wear an exorbitant amount of jewelry to avoid making themselves appealing to a criminal, he said.

“Carry the minimum amount of money necessary to accomplish your shopping,” he said. “Try to limit the amount of cash on you. This way, if you do happen to become a victim of a robbery, you reduce your losses. Also, try to shop with a buddy. Thieves are less likely to try something when people are in groups.”

Mahoney said he hopes residents will at least consider some of these shopping safety tips, but there is one tip he believes should be practiced by everyone – remembering to lock the vehicle.

“The most important things shoppers can do is lock their car doors,” he said. “We constantly get calls from people who have had personal items and money stolen from their car and they can’t believe it – but when we ask if the car was locked, more often than not the answer is no, they left it unlocked.”

Thieves breaking into unlocked cars is one of the biggest issues police see in Aiken, with many residents not only leaving their vehicles unlocked but also leaving expensive items laying out in the open for anyone to see.

“Unlocked cars are a really easy target,” Mahoney said. “If you’re shopping at multiple stores, place purchased items in the trunk or conceal them in a back seat if the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk. You never want to leave valuables in plain view in your vehicle. If a thief looks into a vehicle and sees nothing of value in plain view, he’s going to move on. You’ve just decreased your chances of becoming a victim of a crime significantly.”

Finally, shoppers should always trust their gut and report any suspicious activity.

“Don’t dismiss your gut feeling,” Mahoney said. “If something doesn’t look right to you – if someone’s behavior, appearance or activities don’t appear to be normal – if you get that feeling that something’s wrong, call us.”

Residents are also reminded many of their purchases can be delivered directly to their home with multiple businesses offering free delivery during the holiday shopping season.

“Basically, we just want people to have fun and be safe this holiday season,” Mahoney said. “We just ask for people to be careful and watch out for one another.”

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