Baltimore County Police Issue Holiday Crime Prevention Tips

Shopping

  • Always walk and park in well-lit areas. Park close to the entrance of the store or mall, if possible. Even outside of the mall, stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets, walkways and parking areas for walking and parking.
  • Don’t talk on a cell phone when walking through parking lots and streets. Your phone conversation is a distraction that makes you vulnerable to robbers. Keep your full attention on your surroundings. Also, your cell phone itself can be a tempting target to thieves.
  • Don’t electronically unlock your vehicle until you are within door opening distance. This helps stop a thief from getting into the car and waiting to strike when you least expect it.
  • If you are ready to leave the mall and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay in the mall and ask for a security escort.
  • Do not open your car door to anyone in a parking lot or garage. If you believe you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
  • Don’t flash large amounts of cash or offer tempting targets for theft such as expensive jewelry or clothing.
  • Carry a purse or shoulder bag close to your body, not dangling by straps. Put a wallet in an inside pocket of your coat or front pants pocket.
  • Don’t fumble for car keys. Have them in your hand, ready to use when you reach the car.
  • If you believe someone is following you, cross the street, switch directions, walk into a store or restaurant. If you are really scared, yell. Don’t be embarrassed. Your safety is more important.

Vehicle Safety

  • Always lock your car, even if you are away for only a few moments.
  • Do not leave valuables – gifts, cell phones, purse or clothing – in open view in your car. Take valuables with you, lock them in your trunk, or cover them in an unobtrusive way. 
  • Thieves do their own form of window shopping. They look in parked cars for gifts and other merchandise, and will break through car windows to get at such valuables.
  • When you return to your vehicle after your shopping trip, lock your car door as soon as you get in.

Home

  • Always lock your doors and windows, even if you plan to be out for a short while.
  • Leave lights turned on both inside and outside your residence after dark. Criminals don’t like bright places.
  • If you will be away from home for several days, make arrangements for someone to pick up your mail and newspapers. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign that no one is home, and burglars are tempted to check those envelopes for holiday gifts.
  • When returning home after a shopping trip, be sure to have the house keys in your hand, ready to use when you reach the door.

Beware of Purse Snatchers

The stores are putting up decorations, and purse snatchers are practicing their skills. The Baltimore County Police Department wants everyone to be aware that thieves look forward to holidays as much as everyone else – maybe more so! The department asks shoppers to beware of purse snatchers; women carrying pocketbooks are easy prey. The thieves know that during the holidays, shoppers are distracted and are not as careful as they should be when out. 

Here are some things that can be done to thwart the would-be thief.

  • Keep your purse close to your body.
  • If the pocketbook has long straps, shorten them.
  • If possible, avoid carrying a large purse when shopping.  A fanny pack is compact and more difficult for a thief to grab and run.
  • Carry only the credit cards you intend to use, leave the others behind.
  • Use check cards or checks to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Use ATMs wisely. Have the card ready before approaching the machine, and use ATMs in high traffic areas.

Do Your Homework Before Donating To Charity

  • Be wary of any organization that sends unsolicited e-mail to ask for donations. Do not open any attachment associated with suspect messages.
  • If you want to give, find out how an organization accepts donations. 
  • If you have doubts about a group, there are ways to access information on charitable organizations. Donors can check the groups at www.marylandnonprofits.org.
  • Give to organizations with a history of service and commitment to the community.
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