by Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season in full swing, please consider taking the following precautions to help alleviate the possibility of becoming a victim while you are out shopping for that special gift:
•Stay alert to your surroundings and the people around you.
•Shop with a friend, there is safety in numbers.
•Try not to carry large amounts of cash.
•Criminals tend to look for the "high dollar" shopping bags with your purchases.
•Watch purchases while eating in mall food courts; bags can easily be switched.
•Don't weigh yourself down with too many packages.
•Have your car keys ready in hand before leaving the store.
•If you do return to your vehicle to unload purchases, place them in the trunk of the vehicle.
•Try to shop earlier in the day to avoid darkness.
•If possible, park in a high visibility area.
•Walk briskly and confidently and directly through the parking lot; be cautious of people handing out fliers or asking questions in the parking lot - they may be trying to distract you.
At your home, keep the outside well lit with doors locked and window curtains closed particularly if you have wrapped gifts underneath your Christmas tree.
Also, don't forget about "front porch" shopping. With more and more people ordering their goods online, you need to be proactive in order to keep the gifts delivered to your home safe from thieves. Many times criminals will follow delivery trucks and remove items the driver leaves behind. If you are expecting a package and cannot be there to take delivery, you may want to consider taking the following actions:
•Arrange for a neighbor to take delivery.
•Contact your shipper and have the package rerouted to a place of trust.
•Have your FedEx and UPS packages sent directly to one of their local stores or distribution centers to be held for pickup.
•Have the package delivered to your workplace.
•Keep your tracking number and closely follow the progress of your package online.
If you see any activity that would suggest someone is following one or the delivery trucks, or if you see someone remove a delivered package, immediately call 911.
Please be safe and enjoy this holiday season with your family and friends!