DC-area police offer holiday shopping safety tips

WASHINGTON — Whether it’s excited children or forgetful grandparents who might wander off and get lost, police want caregivers to take pictures of vulnerable loved ones before holiday shopping trips or visits to crowded places.

“It’s definitely helpful, because then it gives law enforcement a good picture of what your child was wearing that day,” Fairfax County police Pfc. Tara Gerhard said. “We can help find them faster. It’s so much easier.”

Also, before leaving home, you might want to record or take pictures of credit card information so you can call the bank right away to inactivate cards if they get lost or stolen.

Gerhard has safety advice for inside and outside shopping areas and for on your person.

Here are some suggests for what you should have on your person, Gerhard said:

  • Put your wallet in your front pocket.
  • Keep your purse close to your body.
  • Don’t bring a lot of cash.
  • Bring only credit cards you plan to use.
  • Approach your car with keys out to avoid entry delays.
  • Don’t get overloaded with packages.

Keeping your hands free makes it less likely you’ll become distracted and therefore more vulnerable to pickpockets, snatch and grab robberies, dropping things or losing valuables.

“If you have an opportunity to go back to your car and drop some of those bags to keep your hands free, that’s always suggested,” Gerhard said.

For outside the shopping area, Gerhard had these suggestions:

  • Park in a well-lit area close to the store.
  • Bring a friend when making trips back and forth to the car.
  • Keep valuables, including packages, out of sight.
  • Bring a blanket in case you need to cover items in seats.

And, for inside the store or mall:

  • Accompany children to restrooms.
  • Use restrooms that are in well-trafficked areas.
  • If a child is shopping with a friend, get the friend’s cellphone number.
  • Establish a place to meet at a set time in case you get separated.

No matter where you are, always pay attention.

“Situational awareness — making sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings — is one of the most important ways you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a crime,” Gerhard said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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