Remember this incident at the Cherry Creek Mall several years back?  The 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.  ipad robbery finger gone still combo

Snatch and run’s like this, 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 the ipad case in Cherry Creek, they do.  There were also several cases of car-jackings right out of Mall parking lots in broad daylight, some that ended tragically.

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.
  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 that look out of place and without purpose.  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.