Shoppers descend upon the new Elgin Walmart Thanksgiving night. | Mike Danahey~Sun-TImes Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:55AM
With the holiday season upon us, Elgin and St. Charles police are reminding everyone to think about safety as well as shopping and celebration.
“I encourage all of my fellow residents to be vigilant while shopping and travelling this year,” Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said in a press release, adding that “when anyone sees something out of the ordinary while out and about this holiday season, or within their neighborhood, they should give us a call” at 847-289-2700.
“Shoppers really need to keep track of their valuables and be aware of who is around them at all times,” adds Bill Tynan, crime prevention officer for the St. Charles Police Department. “Turning your back briefly on a bag of purchases or a purse resting in a shopping cart is all the time a criminal needs to take those items.”
Swoboda recommends that people take these steps while shopping:
Don’t leave purchased items visible in the car; put them in the trunk.
While shopping in the evening hours may be less crowded, it adds some more potential risks. Park in areas of parking lots that have adequate lighting. Consider shopping with someone rather than going alone.
Make sure purses and wallets are secure on your person and you are aware of their location at all times.
Keep the amount of available cash you have at a minimum or separate it into different pockets or locations on or about your person. This way, all of it is not lost if your purse or wallet is misplaced or stolen.
Remain aware of your surroundings at all times, and move to and from your vehicle with confidence and “purpose.”
Have your keys ready before getting to your car so you do not have to search for them while standing near it.
Tynan echoed some of the same suggestions and added these:
Pay attention to your valuables (bags, purses, wallets, phones, etc.) at all times and avoid distractions such as talking on your cellphone or listening to an MP3 player.
Wear your purse diagonally across the front of your body or place your wallet in a front pocket.
Beware of strangers who approach you or bump into you.
Conceal your PIN during credit/debit card transactions.
Throngs of shoppers can lead to frustrations, rage or even mob violence. If you find yourself in a mob scene, remain calm and carefully move to the outside of the mob. Search out protective barriers like walls, and avoid bottlenecks.
Check your credit and debit account balances frequently to find unauthorized purchases, and report lost or stolen cards immediately.
Safe at home, too
Swoboda also recommends these ways for people to protect their homes when they are away:
Valuable items, such as televisions and computers, should be inscribed with an identifying number unique to their owner. But don’t use your entire Social Security number.
Create an up-to-date home inventory including make, model, serial numbers, other detailed descriptions and photographs of items of value such as jewelry. This inventory should be kept somewhere safe, out of the house.
At least two light timers should be set to turn the lights and TV on and off in a logical sequence when you’re away for an extended time. This gives the appearance that someone is home.
Stop mail and newspaper deliveries, or arrange for a neighbor or friend to pick them up when you are away for a long time.
Ask a trusted neighbor to tend the yard, shovel the snow and watch your home when you are away, or have a friend or relative house sit in your absence.
Make sure all doors and windows are locked. when you leave, even if you have an alarm system.