Expert Suggestions To Reduce Your Chances Of Holiday Crime

You’ve knocked out your holiday shopping and stashed the gifts in the trunk. Now it’s time to unwind with a cup at the mall’s coffee shop.

And that’s all the window thieves need.

“It literally takes two seconds to smash your window, take your belongings and flee," said Stephanie Slater, spokeswoman for the Boynton Beach Police Department.

Such thinking takes on added significance especially important during the holidays, when people are buying expensive items and leaving them unattended in their car.

“It’s a good idea to survey the parking lot before leaving the store,” said Steve Muzinich, a safety and awareness expert who advises high schools in California, who often speaks to groups in Northern California. “If the store has a security guard, you can always ask for a security escort.”

Muzinich suggests people view an environment as a criminal might and assess any vulnerabilities. For example, someone staring into their cell phone or loosely holding onto a bag--is at higher risk of being victimized.

“Burglaries and street robberies often start as crimes of opportunity,” he said.

Muzinich urges shoppers to analyze their environment as they enter or leave the shopping area. Are people loitering nearby? Are there dark corners and shrubbery?

“It’s just about observing your surroundings and staying alert.” he said.

Muzinich offers seven suggestions for making yourself invisible to predators.

  • Don’t get sucked into your smartphone. You can virtually lose all your other senses when you’re intently focused on the screen. Doing this in public reduces your awareness of someone approaching you.
  • Keep valuables out of sight. Store items in the trunk of your car and unload the vehicle when you get back home.
  • Secure items that possess street value. Sure, you know that prescription pill bottle in the cupholder treats indigestion, but someone passing by smash-and-grab thinking it’s filled with narcotics or opiates.
  • It’s a jungle out there. “Think of it like the animal kingdom, and the predators are thieves. Does the lion take on the fastest gazelle--or does it look for the easier opportunity?”
  • Survey the parking lot before leaving the store. Look for suspicious behavior, like people loitering in sparsely populated areas.
  • Park beneath a street light, if possible. Burglars are less likely to break into a vehicle that is parked in a well-lit, highly visible area.
  • Protect yourself. Carry pepper spray, or put your car keys between your knuckles as you walk to your vehicle.