As shoppers rush out to finish their holiday shopping, the Prince William Police Department wants people to consider some common sense practices can help people protect themselves.
The risk of being targeted when shopping alone is far greater than shopping with others. Try to shop with a friend or a family member, Prince William Police Spokesman Jonathan Perok said. "Usually, numbers will deter potential thieves from targeting individuals who are shopping by themselves."
People who find that they need to shop alone might ask a security guard or a store employee to walk them to their cars for safety. If those things aren't practical, shoppers might try to walk along with other groups of shoppers leaving shopping destinations at the same time.
Leaving packages in the passenger compartment of a car can tempt thieves. Perok recommends that people lock packages in their trunks or drive directly home after the shopping is done. When walking to your car, keep your keys in your hand. Carry purses close to your body and wallets inside a coat or a front pocket to foil would-be pickpockets.
Shopping in the daytime is always preferable to shopping at night, but if shopping during the day isn't an option, people should make sure to park in well-lit areas of parking lots, Perok said.
People should also remember to lock their cars at all times and to take their electronics and valuables with them when they leave their cars in parking lots to go shopping.
Those shopping with children should make plans in case they get separated. Select a central place to meet and make sure children understand that they can ask security guards or store personnel for help.
With online shopping becoming more and more popular, people need to worry about leaving packages unattended at their doors during the day when they're not home, Perok said. "If you are having packages delivered to your house, see if there's an option to have them delivered to the post office or to your place of employment … so it won't be on your door step."
People should always be aware of their surroundings, and those who are victims of a crime should call the police immediately, Perok said. "If you are the victim of theft, you can contact the police via the non-emergency number at 703-792-6500 or you can go to our website and file a report online at www.pwcgov.org/policereport."