(WAFF) - Black Friday is upon us, and as shoppers gear up to score big at stores, police are stressing some safety steps this holiday season.
The precautions could help keep you from becoming an easy target for criminals during the time of year when you can get caught up in to-do lists and lose focus.
Police say in all of the hustle and bustle that comes with Black Friday and holiday shopping in general, it can open the door for thieves to step in and seize the opportunity to take advantage of you.
When you're out doing your shopping, especially during the hectic Black Friday rush, take a moment to stop and pay attention to what's going on around you. Don't be distracted with bags, packed parking lots, and crowds and shopping carts, etc. Before you walk out to your car, survey your surroundings and make sure you're safe.
"Park in a well-lit area. We also advocate using the buddy system. It might sound silly because you're already going out into a well populated area that's going to be busy but if you have someone else who can go shopping with you, there's always safety in numbers. Two sets of eyes are better than one. So make sure that we're thinking about that kind of stuff," said Capt. John Stringer with the Madison Police Department.
Let someone else know where you're going and how long you plan to be out. If you deviate from that, send a text or make a call to let loved ones know.
"I think we all have our circulars ready to go and we've circled everything and we're probably thinking about our first stop. It's really important though, consider traffic is going to be really busy on Friday and Thursday evening, so remind young drivers if they're going out for Black Friday for the first time to be aware of that," added Emily Long, spokeswoman for the Decatur Police Department.
Huntsville police also issued a safety advisory that states: "Remember, not everyone's intentions are as good as your own. Lock your car, always. Don't leave your belongings in your car at night. Keep a close eye on package deliveries left on your porch. As we enter into the holiday season, take extra security precautions and - as always - remain vigilant."
When you're going back and forth to different stores, make sure you're not leaving items in plain view and lock you car.
"When you do put your bags in, make sure they're in your trunk. Never leave them in your back seat. That is just perfect for someone who wants to break in and get your items. It's very visible if they're in your back seat. Never leave a cell phone or a tablet or purse or wallet in a car when you're going to the next store. Carry those items with you," Long said.
Authorities say you might also want to think twice about getting on social media to post about all of the great things you scored at the stores. It could bring you some unwanted attention.
"Try and be cautious about that because that's just advertising what you bought. I know we all love to share, but just use your best judgment on that," Long added.
Captain Stringer says it's more than just having to worry about being the victim of a theft or robbery during this time of year.
"There's also a lot of people out on the streets so we need to be careful and pay attention to the traffic flow. We want to make sure that we're driving safely and shopping safely and we know what's going on around us," he explained. "Don't become so bogged down with the idea of carrying your stuff that you don't see the person who might be approaching you or that you don't know who is parked next to your vehicle. Just keep your head up and survey what's going on around you and your environment."
Officials also recommend women use a cross body bag, and that shoppers keep a close eye on their wallets and money.
"We really discourage people from carrying large bills with them when they go shopping. If you want to carry bills, keep them in your front pocket where you can keep close watch on them," Long said.
Here's the list of holiday shopping tips the Decatur Police Department shared with the public:
- Make a concentrated effort to leave your phone in your purse or pocket – any text or call can wait until you are parked.
- If possible, try to make all of your purchases during the day. Make sure that you are parked in a well-lit location, if you’re shopping at night.
- Be aware of your surroundings as you pass through walkways and crosswalks, especially in crowded retail locations.
- Always have your keys in hand as you approach your vehicle. Once you enter your car, be sure to lock your doors. Never leave a purse, wallet, or phone behind when you get out at the next stop. Store your purchases in the trunk as you move from store to store.
- When you return home with your holiday gifts, keep them in a location that is away from windows and entryways. Nothing is more tempting to a potential thief than valuable items in plain sight.
- An occasional run to the ATM is unavoidable during the holidays. Be sure you’re retrieving funds in a safe location.
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