Shopping malls will be crowded this last weekend before Christmas. Many will be focused on getting their shopping finished but they also need to be alert to make their shopping experience a safe one.
Shoppers will spend hundreds of dollars on gifts. To help keep those gifts safe, put the packages in the trunk and out of sight, said Pratt Police Chief Gary Myers.
For vehicles that don't have a trunk, cover the packages with a coat or blanket but don't leave them in view where they can be a temptation to thieves.
A simple theft deterrent is making sure the vehicle is locked and don't leave the keys in the vehicle, Myers said.
Don't carry large amounts of cash. If a thief takes a wallet or purse with lots of cash inside, that money is gone forever.
If a credit card is taken, use of the card can at least be stopped so it's best to use a credit card, Myers said.
Stay alert while shopping. That can be a difficult task especially with children along but its much safer to take the children along and not leave them alone in the vehicle.
Thieves take advantage of the big crowd by brushing up close to people and picking pockets of wallets or purses.
"It's so easy for someone to brush up against you in the mall," Myers said.
When carrying a purse keep it close and if it has a shoulder strap, keep the strap over the shoulder and keep a hand on the strap so a thief can't just come by and grab the strap and run.
Also, be aware when talking to vendors with carts in the middle of hallway. It is a good time for thieves to just walk past and take something without ever being noticed.
It's a good idea to go shopping with someone else. If shopping for family, take a long a friend because it makes much less of a target.
Once shopping is complete, remember to keep vigilant while going back to and getting into the vehicle. Packages can make a tempting target.
If shopping alone, be on the look out for people just standing by vehicles or for people sitting in vehicles and just watching people come and go.
Have keys out and ready to open the vehicle. Be sure to look for people under the vehicle or inside before opening the door. If someone is there, immediately return to the mall and contact security.
"Don't hesitate to go back into the mall," Myers said.
If a person is nervous about going to the vehicle alone, have any store contact mall security and they will go along to the vehicle and stay with the person until they leave.
The large crowds at malls can be problem in the event of an emergency such as a fire. Make note of exits and be able to leave the mall at the closest exit. Have a prearranged meeting place in case the family gets separated. Remember where the vehicle is parked and what stores were at the place where the person entered the mall.
In the event a robbery does take place, don't try to be a hero especially if the person has a gun. Just give them the money and don't try to chase them down with a vehicle.
Try to remember as many descriptors as possible such as height, weight, age, type and make of vehicle, color and tag number, Myers said.
Extra precautions and staying alert can help make shopping a safe experience and prevent a shopper from becoming a statistic.