Before we know it Thanksgiving will be here, and with it the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2005

But as that joyous time of year approaches so does the increased chance that you might become a victim of theft.

During the holiday shopping season law enforcement officials typically see a rise in shoplifting, theft and even assault as the “bad guys” try to separate victims from their spending money.

But this doesn’t have to happen. There are ways you can fight back, but they require a little work on your part.

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Here are some tips that will hopefully keep your shopping experience joyful and crime free.

– Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.

– If you see something suspicious, report it to local law enforcement. It is better that they investigate and find nothing than for you to dismiss a potential serious problem.

– Park in a well-lighted space, and be sure to lock the car, close the windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.

– Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.

– Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Don’t overburden yourself with packages Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.

– Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.

– When it is time to leave the store(s), especially after dark, try to walk to your car while others are also in the parking lot. If you cannot manage to do that, find a security guard and ask them to assist you.

– Have your keys out and at the ready, not only for opening your car, but to use as a self-defense weapon in the event you are accosted.

Safety at the holidays is also important inside and around your home.

– Before leaving, turn on lights and a radio or TV so it looks like someone’s 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 outside.

Take these tips to heart and practice them during the holidays. If you do, you will reduce your chances of spending Christmas at the police station filling out paperwork, or worse, recovering in the hospital from injuries sustained in an attempted robbery.