The holiday shopping season is well underway. And at the Nov. 8 meeting of the Sully District Police Station’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), MPO Sabrina Ruck, the station’s crime prevention officer, provided several holiday safety tips.
Telling attendees to be wary of burglars, thieves, pickpockets and other holiday Grinches, she said, “Valuables can be replaced; you cannot. If someone demands your purse or car keys, just give it to them.”
Ruck said people should be alert and not provide an appealing opportunity to be ripped off. Shoppers are easier targets for criminals if, for example, they’re looking at their cell phones and not paying attention to their surroundings.
“Be alert, because the criminals are watching the crowd for potential victims,” she said. “So be confident, walk with a purpose, look alert and trust your instincts. There’s safety in numbers, so stay in pairs or insert yourself in a crowd walking outside. And look out for poor lighting and secluded areas.”
Ruck also warned people not to have their hands too full and to keep their keys in their hands while walking to their cars. “Hold your purse under your arm and be aware of people coming up to you,” she said. “They could distract you for another purpose, so keep your guard up.”
She further advised residents to keep any valuables in their car out of sight. These include packages, electronics and power cords. And she told them to be sure and report any suspicious activity.
When shopping, said Ruck, “Don’t wear expensive jewelry, only carry the cash or credit cards you need and always carry your cell phone. Men should carry their wallets in their front pocket or inside their jacket pocket, and everyone should beware of strangers and con artists.”
She said people should program their cell phones with their emergency contacts and the police, non-emergency number, 703-691-2131, as well as the emergency 911 number. In addition, Ruck said residents should choose ATMs that are well-lit, used often and that they feel comfortable using.
People who don’t like the look or feel of an ATM should come back at another time or go to another location. They should also pay attention to their surroundings and be wary of anyone trying to help them with their transaction. Or, better yet, said Ruck, “Get cash back at grocery stores, instead of from ATMs.”
She also urged people to check out charities before donating to be sure they’re legitimate and actually do what they claim to do. “Ask questions about the charity,” she said. “And find out how much of the contributions goes directly to the charity.”
Ruck further encouraged potential donors to contact the Wise Giving Alliance, operated by the Better Business Bureau, at www.give.org. “It vets charitable organizations, and you can also find out the percentage of donated amounts actually going to charity,” she said. “And never use a debit card online, and look for the lock icon for safe and secure sites.”