Not everyone is as Jolly as you and St. Nick while Holiday Shopping.  In FACT, the reality is that crime rates SPIKE around the holidays.  Identity Theft, Robbery, Burglary, and Vehicle theft are all crimes of opportunity that see huge escalations during the holidays.  Here’s a few that you may remember, or possibly didn’t ever hear about;

  1. Remember this incident at the Cherry Creek Mall several years back?  ipad robbery finger gone still comboThe thief follows the shopper to the exit and right as he’s going through the exit door, the thief grabs the Apple bag (with ipad inside) and takes off running.  The bag’s string was wrapped around the shoppers hand and removed much of his finger in the process.  OUCH!!
  2. A mother and niece were held at knife-point while Christmas shopping. A big scare happened on Black Friday in the parking lot of the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City. It was around 4 a.m. on Black Friday. The woman told News 9 the holdup happened within what seemed like a matter of seconds. “You don’t expect someone to just pull up on you that quickly in a car, and jump out,” said the victim. “We were walking to the car, and I hit the unlock button. We were approaching the vehicle and I probably got to just the back wheel there at the rear tire,” she said.  Then she said, out of nowhere, a red Dodge Charger pulled up, slammed on the brakes, and a guy jumped out of the passenger’s side and began charging her.  Meanwhile, her niece was on the other side of her SUV and had yet to realize her aunt was being robbed.  “And he said, ‘Give me your purse,’ and I actually replied, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Give me your purse.’ I had five or six bags in my hands and a cross body purse, so I was trying as quickly as I could to get them off,” she said.  As she struggled to quickly give the thief her purse, she said he lunged at her with a knife.  “I thought it was a joke almost, because I just couldn’t believe it was happening. It’s like it wasn’t real. And I was finally able to get the purse off, and I just pushed him with the purse and I said, ‘Take it! Take it!’”  She said the man jumped back inside the Charger with a second suspect and the two sped off.
  3. RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A young woman whose rare illness has forced her to undergo 22 operations in the last 14 years was mugged while Christmas shopping by a man who kicked her crutches away and dragged her across a parking lot. Doctors said they expected Susan Campbell, 25, who was listed Tuesday in good condition with a dislocated shoulder, to be released from the hospital in time for Christmas. She said she was crossing the parking lot of a Sears store after parking about 30 yards from the entrance when she spied a man behaving suspiciously. ‘I got bad vibes,’ she told the Riverside Press Enterprise in an interview from her hospital bed. She said she speeded up and ‘almost beat him to the door,’ but the man grabbed her purse and began pulling. She told the newspaper she hit her assailant with a crutch, apparently angering him. He then knocked her down, grabbed her crutches and threw them aside and dragged her across the lot until the purse broke.
  4. A young Hoboken man out holiday shopping with his wife at a high-end New Jersey mall was executed by two carjackers as he tried to protect his terrified spouse, authorities said Monday. The couple was toting so many bags, they looked as if “they were trying to get all their Christmas shopping done in one night,” a source at the mall recalled.(They both) had their arms full of packages and were headed back to
    their 2012 Range Rover in the parking garage near Nordstrom at The Mall at Short Hills when they were accosted at around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, cops said.  Friedland had opened the SUV door for his wife and was heading around to the driver’s side when the thugs — who had circled the garage at least twice trolling for victims — made their move.  Friedland confronted one of the men, who put a gun to his head and demanded his keys, law-enforcement sources said.
    After Friedland pushed the thug off him, the thug fired multiple shots from a handgun. A single bullet struck Friedland point-blank in the head as witnesses heard Jaime shrieking. One of the men hopped behind the wheel of the luxury SUV and ordered her out at gunpoint, law-enforcement sources told The Post. He sped off, followed by his cohort in a Subaru SUV, which they had driven to the mall.
  5. An armed robbery in a crowded shoe store along the busy U.S. 30. The man, who was holding a shoe box and wearing a new pair of shoes on his feet, told the cashier that he wanted to pay for the shoes and wear them out of the store, he said.  Jarmula said the man then pulled out a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, announced the robbery, pointed the gun at the heads of the cashier and store manager and demanded cash from the register. The man then grabbed cash from the open register, Jarmula said, and fired his gun, perhaps accidentally. Although a gun was fired inside a store and an armed, fleeing suspect attempted several carjackings, no one was injured during the robbery at the Shoe Carnival in the Crossings of Hobart.

Crimes like these, as well as smash and grabs out of vehicles, happen all the time, but there is a very steep uptick around the holidays.  Thankfully most of these don’t result in an injury, but sometimes, as in some of the cases above, they end tragically.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Approaching the problem from the self-defense perspective, we won’t talk about how to keep your ‘STUFF’ safe…just about how to keep YOU safe.  Here a few simple tips to help you keep safe this holiday while shopping.

  1. Shop in pairs if not groups. Make plans with family and friends to head to the mall together.  If you split up in the mall, try to stay in pairs.  Before separating, set a rendezvous time and place so you can all leave the mall together.   If you travel in separate cars, park them together (yes, this
    might mean you have to walk further…it’s good exercise!)  Make sure everyone has each other’s cell phone numbers in case you’re late making the rendezvous
    you can check in.
  2. If you have to shop alone, when leaving, leave with someone by tagging along with another group you see leaving at the same time. Hang out inside of the exit for a while, offset from the exit door, and facing back inside so you can see anyone that was behind you or coming up to the exit.  Find a good looking group, get in front, scan the outside, open the door, turn around and hold the door for them.  You just gave yourself a 360 degree look at your environment.  Plus it’s polite.woman-with-lots-of-shopping-bags
  3. Don’t collect more than you can safely carry. What this means is that you shouldn’t ‘connect’ yourself to any of the bags.  Sliding bags handles up your arms to carry more bags could not only cause injury in a snatch and run, but it can cause injury if you fall or get caught up in a piece of moving equipment.  Bring a wagon, or rent a cart if you’re buying that much stuff.  If you must, take some of it to your car and head back in to finish your shopping.  (This is admittedly a bad thing for protecting your ‘stuff’.  So make sure you’re not being watched or better yet, get in your car and drive away, then re-park somewhere else).
  4. Dress for success. You’re not applying for a job…you’re shopping. Comfortable clothing that you can maneuver in and comfortable shoes that you can move quickly in if you need to.  Backpacks are preferable to purses with the added benefit of stuffing smaller purchased items into it keeping your hands less restricted.
  5. Practice the Triple A’s of self-protection; Awareness, Avoidance, Action.
    • AWARENESS of your surroundings and more importantly people around you is a key element, and probably your best insurance. Looking aware and alert without being paranoid goes a long way towards not being chosen as a victim by the evil doers.  All public building exit doors push outwards (fire code).  You can turn around and use your shoulder or back to open the door, effectively scanning your “six” (looking behind you) as you exit.
    • AVOIDANCE seems like a no-brainer…but it’s not. It’s a brainer.  We often take our safety for granted when we’re in public areas with other people around or during the daylight hours.  Avoid people or vehicles that look out of place and without purpose. Vehicles driving slowly through parking lots yes passing up spaces may be suspicious. Avoid commotion in a public area, don’t go to investigate.  If watching a performance in the middle of the street or mall, don’t stand on the outside ring of spectators, that makes your bags or purse an easy target.  Get close and default to one side or the other not the middle, keep your back to a wall, or keep moving.  When walking to your car, take a few extra turns between other cars and watch how other people walking react to your movements.  I like to make a large square….walk down 3 or 4 aisles away, then make a 90 towards my car moving between cars.  Don’t let cars follow you to your car ostensibly to take your parking space.  Check the area around your car before committing to getting unloaded and in.
    • Take preventative ACTION by following the first two ‘A’s. But if all else fails, have a PLAN of ACTION.  Know your exit routs and run.  Know your responses to violent attacks and deploy your defenses decisively (Krav Maga!) Having a plan that you never have to use is far better than needing a plan that you never developed.

These simple tips will cost you nothing, except perhaps 2 minutes out of your entire day.  2 minutes well spent to insure your safety.  It’s an easy step to take to keep these holidays happy and full of family time, fun, and laughter.