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Stay safe during holiday shopping trips

Not everyone shares the holiday spirit.

While picking up the latest toys, technology and fashions for loved ones, it is easy to forget that this time of year is a high time for many thieves and robbers to strike.

The crime rate during the holiday season generally increases with reports piling in of purse snatching, purchased goods stolen from bags and &uot;smash and grabs&uot;, in which car windows are shattered and packages are then stolen from within the cars.

Though this sounds disconcerting for shoppers and a warning to not go out shopping, the good news is that most police officials agree crimes during the holiday season are heightened not because more thieves are on the street, but because more shoppers are out and thefts can be quick and numerous.

Local retailers take notice of the potential for a crime spree on their premises and have taken measures to help protect their customers.

Wal-Mart, for instance, has security guards patrolling 24 hours a day and has a security guard posted by the entrance and exit of the store.

&uot;Basically what we recommend during this time of the year that if they are going out to make sure to go out in pairs and be aware of those common senses, be aware of their surroundings. Lock their car doors when they get out of their doors&uot; said Sam Wiggs, manager of the Wal-Mart. &uot;If they feel unsafe going to their cars, ask management and we’ll try and get someone to help escort them to their cars.&uot;

The store’s parking lot attendants, such as Chris Rodgers, are there to help customers feel as safe as possible.

&uot;Some people do like to steal with its (being) Christmas time, I try to stay with (customers) when they unpack, make sure they get off with everything,&uot; Rodgers said. &uot;Just lock your doors and you’ll be all right.&uot;

Manager Sam Wiggs also suggests not keeping expensive items in plain view to tempt potential thieves, double bag expensive gifts to help shield them, and to pack your trunk with your gifts as opposed to your backseat.

More good news for holiday shoppers is by following simple shopping tips they can insure a higher safety for themselves and their gifts.

According to www.be-safe.org, a safety awareness Web site, shoppers should do the following:

– Keep receipts separate from purchase, if purchases are stolen a thief can use the receipt to cash in the purchase.

– Keep one arm free at all times

– Take packages periodically out to the car

– Shop with a friend, spouse, or older child who can help carry packages

– If you carry a handbag, it should have a secure shoulder strap, be securely closed, and close to the body

– Be discreet, do not show large sums of money and use debit/credit cards whenever possible

– Carry only small amounts of cash

– Make sure your card is returned to you

Even though the thought of having personal property taken away is never reassuring, aware and educated shoppers can protect themselves and their holiday shopping experience.

Lauren.wicks@suffolknewsherald.com