Holiday Safety Tips from the Columbia Police Department

As the holidays approach more and more people will be frequenting shopping malls and centers, as will criminals.  Take the time to be observant.  If something doesn't look right report it immediately.  If you see a suspicious person or cars call the police.  Put safety first and avoid unnecessary risks.  These safety tips are intended to help you avoid becoming the victim of a crime.

While shopping be sure to remember:

*        Use credit or debit cards and check cards rather than carrying large sums of cash.

*        Shop with one or more friends.  There is safety in numbers.

*        Avoid carrying too many packages.  Being overloaded will make you an easy target.

*        Place all packages in the trunk of your vehicle, never in plain view on the seats.  Make sure to put away all cell phone charger cords and GPS units.

*        Park near well-lit, high-traffic areas, not in dark isolated areas.

*        If you purchase big ticket items or large packages drive up close to the store to load them in your car.

*        Have your keys in your hand before you leave the safety of your store.

*        Walk in the driveways of parking lots rather than between cars.  If you are pulled down between cars and cry for help it will be difficult for anyone to tell where the cries are coming from.

*        Walk confidently.  Be alert to who passes you and who's behind you.  Make                     eye contact.

*        Men should carry billfolds in their front pants pocket.  This discourages pickpockets or anyone using a knife to slash back pockets.

*        Ladies should keep purses close to their bodies in the front and carry smaller pocketbooks that are harder to grab.  Also, keep purses on your person at all times, not unattended or exposed in shopping carts.  Strap purse only over shoulder, never across your body.

*        If someone does grab your purse, let it go.  You can get hurt-badly-by trying to hold on to it.  You will probably lose it anyway.

*        When you park your car take your keys and lock your doors.

*        Look inside the passenger compartment of your car, as well as under the car itself, before getting in to make sure no one is inside.

*        If you think that you are being followed when driving home go to a service station, convenience store, the nearest police station, or any other place where there are people. Do not drive home.

Before leaving on a holiday vacation or trip be sure to remember the following:

*        Avoid advertising, especially in front of strangers, that you will be leaving home for the holidays.

*        Call the police department so they can check your home every day while you are gone.

*        Have a home security survey done on your home before you leave.  The police department will make suggestions on how to better secure your home.

*        If available, use the phone company's call forwarding to forward all your calls.

*        Suspend newspaper deliveries and have your mail held at the post office.

*        Have a trusted neighbor watch your home while you are gone.

*        Make sure your home looks occupied while you are away.

*        Have a neighbor park their car in your driveway.

*        Use timers on your lights.

While you are on the road, remember:

*        Plan your travel route well in advance.

*        Let family and friends know your travel itinerary and what time you are expected to arrive, then call and let them know when you have arrived safely.

*        Avoid picking up hitchhikers.

*        If your car breaks down stay in your vehicle and call for help on your cell phone.  If someone stops to help, tell them to notify the state patrol or local police.  Never accept offers of rides from people you don't know.

*        Make sure your car is in good running condition before you leave home.

*        Always keep your fuel tank over half full, especially when traveling.

*        Avoid driving in bad weather.

Keeping your credit and identity safe:

*        If you write checks use only the necessary information: Name, address, and phone number.  Never give your social security number.

*        Safeguard your credit cards, checks, and check cards as you do cash.

*        Maintain them out of sight and securely on your person.

*        Make a list of all your credit cards, debit cards, checks, and check cards with account numbers.  Keep the list in a secure place in your home.

*        Notify issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen, or misused.

*        Take your time when making a purchase.  Be careful to collect your license, credit card or checkbook/check card, and receipt.  Also, try to position your body so others cannot observe your transaction.

*        Keep your receipts and reconcile your statement.  Promptly report and discrepancies to the issuer.