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Chief urges citizens to observe safe shopping during holidays

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said reports of missingpurses and billfolds are beginning to come into his department, andhe is encouraging residents to use caution while holidayshopping.

Good preparation before going shopping can prevent a lot offinancial difficulties in the days ahead, he said.

“It’s basically just using common sense and good judgment,”Henderson said.

The number of handbag and wallet thefts and shoplifting casesincreases around the holidays every year, he said. This year isproving no exception.

“You have to understand that you have people that are in theseparticular businesses just for that reason during this season,”Henderson said.

People having difficulty getting presents for loved ones andopportunistic thieves account for a majority of the thefts.

“Women should be especially careful,” he said.

Women are often selected as targets because they can generallybe more easily overpowered in quick snatch-and-grabs and because itis usually easier to gain access to a purse than a wallet,Henderson said.

The most common mistake women seem to make, the chief said, isto leave their purse in a shopping cart while inspecting an item inthe store, thus making it easier for the thief to simply grab thepurse as he passes by.

The same is true when placing purchased items in the vehicle,Henderson said. He recommended women unlock the car, place theirpurse inside and then begin unloading items from the cart. Thiswould also avoid another common mistake – leaving the purse in theshopping cart once the items have been placed in the vehicle.

“It’s also important not to wait until you get to a particularlocation to place a purse in the trunk,” Henderson said. “Take outyour credit or debit card and put it in a pocket and put your pursein the trunk before you ever leave home if you can.”

Wallets are much more difficult to steal because of theirlocation in a man’s pocket, the chief said, but men are typicallyless conscious about placing valuables out of view, such as in acar’s trunk.

Men most commonly report the theft of items such as cellularphones, laptops and hunting rifles, which are typically left inplain view inside the vehicle.

“That invites people to break into your vehicle,” Hendersonsaid.

People should also be observant about suspicious-lookingvehicles or characters in their neighborhoods, he said. The chiefsaid people should alert the law about strange vehicles or peoplecontinually passing their home or hanging around without an obviouspurpose.

“People are welcome to go wherever they want to go, of course.We’re just asking them to be more aware of their surroundings,”Henderson said.

More awareness is also necessary because children will begetting out of school soon for the holidays and may be playing intheir yards or in the street when people are not accustomed toseeing them there.

Henderson suggested parents copy the serial number on theirchild’s bike and always get a telephone number for where theirchildren will be during the day.