Vehicle prowling shoots way up this time of year, because thieves know shoppers are likely to have valuables in their cars or trucks.
“We’ve called the major shopping areas and asked them to be vigilant with their surveillance cameras in the parking lots,” said Spokane police Officer Mike McCasland.
Police and security patrols also have been increased around high-traffic shopping areas.
Most thefts are crimes of opportunity, said Sgt. Dennis Walter, who offered these tips for staying safe this holiday season:
•Park and walk in well-lit, busy areas.
•Stay away from overgrown bushes and trees.
•Use valet parking or an attended garage if you are alone.
•Shop at locations that have police or security patrols.
Never flash your cash
•Don’t leave valuables (cell phones, electronics, GPS devices, jewelry) in the car.
•Don’t wear expensive jewelry while shopping, or keep it at a minimum .
•Keep the amount of cash you carry to a minimum; use credit and debit cards.
•Carry cash in an unusual place instead of your purse or wallet.
•Pay attention to your surroundings and to people and vehicles in the area.
•Walk with confidence.
•Do not overload yourself with packages.
•Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet in your front pocket.
•Do not be distracted by talking on the phone or wearing headphones.
•Help others by reporting suspicious people to the police or security staff.
•Ask security to escort you if you feel uneasy.
When you reach your car
•Have your keys in your hand and an alarm panic button ready to activate.
•Look into the vehicle and check for intruders before entering.
•Roll up the windows and lock your doors as soon as you get in the car.
•Make a habit of always starting your vehicle and driving away immediately.
If you’re approached by a suspicious person
•Be aware of strangers approaching for any reason.
•Do not be afraid to tell subjects to back off, scream for help, activate your car alarm, or use a self-defense product.
•If you suspect you are being followed, switch directions and immediately go to a well-lighted area crowded with people.
•If someone in a vehicle asks for directions, ignore them or answer from a distance; do not approach the vehicle.
•If approached by someone carrying a weapon, don’t argue or resist; give up the car or your valuables.
If you become the victim of a crime
•Call the police immediately to report the crime and provide detailed information; your actions can help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
•Keep records of credit card numbers and contact information in an easily accessible place and immediately report them if lost or stolen; the quicker you report them, the less damage an ID thief can do.