Authorities say don’t let crooks spoil holidays

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2002

While consumers look forward to the after Thanksgiving saleskicking off the Christmas shopping frenzy, authorities are makingsure to issue safety tips.

They are warning shoppers of the dangers that are more prevalentthis time of year as thieves look for people to target.

“A lot of the problems come from people trying to rush and notbeing alert,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte.

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A theft can happen in just a few seconds, whether it involvessomeone breaking into a vehicle or grabbing shoppers’ purses orpackages.

“It can happen just like that. All someone has to do is walkaway from their shopping cart or packages and someone can walk byand pick up their stuff,” said Boyte.

A few tips can save some heartache and regret brought on by avisit from a holiday grinch, said authorities.

First, shoppers should be extremely careful about where theyplace valuables after they are purchased. Authorities adviseshoppers to put packages in an enclosed area, such as the trunk oftheir vehicle, rather than in the backseat where the packages arevisible to those walking.

“If the trunk gets full, they should take their packages home,then come back and finish their shopping,” said Brookhaven PoliceChief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson.

Caution should also be used while shopping because crooks can befound lurking around the aisles for easy targets.

One of the most common forms of theft during the holiday seasonis purse snatchings, something many women try to avoid by leavingtheir purse in a vehicle. Authorities agree that is a goodpreventive measure to use, but purses should be in the trunk, notleft on a seat or floor board, which can provide a quick grab forcrooks.

Women should also not make the mistake of waiting until they getto their destination before putting their purse in the trunk.

“If you know you’re not going to take your purse with you, putit in the trunk before you leave home,” said Henderson.

Shoppers should also be careful in parking lots, especially atnight, making sure to park in well-lit areas. Authorities suggestshoppers have their keys ready before leaving the store, so theycan get into their vehicle quickly.

Also, shoppers are encouraged to avoid another painful mistakeby taking two sets of keys in case they accidentally lock theirkeys in their vehicle in the holiday rush. Shoppers should keepkeys in two areas, such as one in their pocket and one in a purseor wallet.

Staying alert is often the best way to avoid being a victim,said authorities, advising all shoppers to keep their heads upwhile walking and look around for suspicious subjects.

“If they see something suspicious, they should find storesecurity and let them know,” said Boyte.

Most shopping malls and larger stores have security available,but shoppers should not forget to report suspicious activity aroundsmaller stores by calling local law enforcement officers.

The Brookhaven Police Department can be reached at 833-2424 andthe Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department number is 833-5231.

Shoppers can also use cellular phones or pay phones to call9-1-1 in cities where they are unsure of the phone number for lawenforcement agencies.