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Staying Safe While Holiday Shopping

Nassau police to step up presence, offer tips on staying safe while shopping.

It's holiday time, and that means lots of shopping from now though the end of the year. Yet this is also the season for pickpockets and other predators who hone in on unsuspecting victims. That's why police officials are reminding everyone in Nassau County that the best way to stay safe is be aware of our surroundings at all times.

Nassau officials said they are intensifying security measures to help ensure safety during the holidays. That means an increase of marked and plainclothes patrols in shopping malls and commercial areas.

When it comes to holiday safety, awareness is key. Nassau residents are already in alert mode as  have repeatedly robbed female victims in the region. The duo tends to strike at night as women exit their vehicles in the driveways outside their homes. To date, no one has been hurt.

Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey says preparation can go a long way.  He offers the following tips:

Before leaving the house, decide where you will shop and your route, and tell someone your plans. If possible, bring a companion – there's safety in numbers. Switch the alarm on before you go out the door, and leave a few lights on so that the house looks occupied. Also, don't leave valuable items visible; place them instead in closets or even safes.

Stay vigilant while parking. Choose well-lit areas, and note the location of your parking spot. Place all valuable items – radar detectors, laptops and packages – in the trunk, and lock all doors. Keep your auto visible by avoiding parking near vans or other vehicles with covered cargo areas.  Take a look around the parking lot before getting out of the car. If anyone seems suspicious, stay in the car or drive away. And never open the door to get out of your car until you are ready.

Skip the large handbag – you don't want to look like a target – and carry only what's absolutely necessary.

It pays to be street-smart while shopping. The best place to put your money and credit cards? Right in your front pocket. And limit the amount of cash and number of credit cards you carry.  Identity theft is a real concern, so try not to let others see – or even snap cell-phone pictures of – your credit or debit cards and other forms of identification when paying for goods or while at the cash machine. 

And stay focused. Criminals tend to take advantage of the unsuspecting when there's a distraction.

Before heading back to the car, have your key ready to unlock the door. Keep your arms free by putting packages in a courtesy cart. Trust your instincts – if anyone looks suspicious, don't exit the store. And if you see anyone loitering around the car, stay away from your vehicle.

When approaching your car, make sure no one is underneath, in front or in back of it.  And check the front and rear passenger seats before getting inside.

Generate attention if you feel threatened. Carry a whistle, and use it outside if necessary. If you're inside your car, lock the doors and honk repeatedly.

Need to head back to the store? Keep packages hidden, either in the trunk or on the floor, covered with a jacket or blanket.

These tips may seem like a lot to remember. But as Mulvey points out, precautions go a long way towards staying safe and enjoying the holidays. 

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