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Shopping safely this holiday season

As holiday shopping goes into full force, it is important to take proper precautions to stay safe against COVID-19 and theft.

The Suffolk Police Department wants every citizen to have a safe holiday season, the department stated in a press release. While shopping, the Suffolk Police Department encourages everyone to keep following all mandated precautions, including wearing a face mask, social distancing, cleaning your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer, and staying home if you feel sick.

But COVID-19 is not the only threat. The holiday shopping season is when busy people can become careless and vulnerable to theft and other crimes.

“The most important safety tip is to be aware of your surroundings,” said Maj. Cassandra Garvin from the Suffolk Police Department. “Park and walk in well-lit areas, minimize distractions, and keep an eye on your belongings.”

The Suffolk Police Department has provided many more tips to remain safe while shopping this holiday season.

Holiday crime prevention tips while shopping:

  • Use the buddy system and shop with a friend; there is safety in numbers.
  • Be careful what you post online. Don’t alert others that you aren’t at home.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a check, credit or debit card.
  • Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home, and if you discover that one is missing, notify the credit card company as soon as possible. Don’t assume that you will find it later.
  • Do not carry a wallet in a back pocket. It should be placed in a front pocket of your pants.
  • Educate your children about what to do if they are lost.
  • Have your car keys ready in hand before leaving the store. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in. Get in your car, lock your doors and leave immediately.
  • Be just as vigilant about your surroundings during the daylight hours. A crime can occur at any time.

Holiday crime prevention tips for parking lots:

  • Shop early and leave early to avoid evening darkness.
  • Park in a high visibility area, keep track of where you’re parked, snap a photo for reference, and check for lighting in case you leave during hours of darkness.
  • Try not to park next to a vehicle with dark, tinted windows.
  • Prior to arriving, lock all your valuables in the trunk of your vehicle. Keep purchases in the trunk as well.
  • Leave the store with others, not alone. Ask security to escort you to your vehicle if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Walk briskly, confidently and directly through the parking lot. Be cautious of people handing out fliers or asking questions in the parking area.
  • Watch for people who may be following you inside as well as outside and report it to security immediately.

Holiday Safety Tips for Online Shopping:

  • When shopping online, make sure you are dealing with a reputable online store. Before entering your payment information, make sure the page is encrypted and secure. Keep your antivirus, anti-phishing software up to date.
  • Check the return policy before placing your order.
  • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Save all receipts. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
  • A large number of citizens are utilizing online sites, such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and OfferUp to buy and sell things quickly and economically. Nationally, there has been an increase in robberies and assaults on citizens utilizing these sites. Many times, these robberies occur during the meetings of the buyers and the sellers of these items.
  • The Suffolk Police Department has established two safe meeting zone locations, including Suffolk Police Headquarters, 111 Henley Place. The Suffolk Police Headquarters lobby is open 24-hours a day and is equipped with video surveillance cameras. The other safe meeting place location is at the Sector II Police Precinct, parking lot, 3903 Bridge Road in Northern Suffolk. The parking lot is well-lit and is also equipped with video surveillance cameras.

Holiday crime prevention tips at home:

  • Keep the outside of your home well lit with doors locked and window curtains closed.
  • Don’t display gifts beneath the Christmas tree which can be seen from windows or doors.
  • After the holidays, don’t advertise gifts received by the boxes left for the garbage collection. Destroy boxes and place them in your blue recycle bin, or in a sealed, non-clear garbage bag.

Find additional safety information at suffolkva.us/403/Holiday-Safety.