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Tips for holiday shopping safety

WORTHINGTON -- The hustle and bustle of holiday shopping can be just as much fun as watching a gift recipient's excitement on Christmas morning, but shopping during the holiday season can also present unique dangers.

According to Worthington Director of Public Safety Mike Cumiskey, the largest amount of crime in any city is theft. In Worthington 80 percent of reported crime involves theft. The actual numbers here, he said, are lower than those from Fairmont or Marshall, but precautions should be taken, both during the holidays and throughout the year.

"I'd like to see no burglaries, no cars broken into, and it would be delightful to not have to give people bad news" about theft, Cumiskey said. "But there are so many people out there ready to steal. If you want to make sure you still have your stuff, secure it."

When shopping, a few common sense tips are appropriate for the holidays or any time of year. Authorities recommend women not carry a purse or wallet, as they can be prime targets in crowded stores.

Carrying large amounts of cash should be avoided, but bills should be kept in a front pocket. Although money management gurus frequently suggest using cash for holiday shopping to avoid overspending, law enforcement recommends using checks or credit/debit cards. A list of all credit card numbers should be kept in a safe place at home.

If possible, use ATM machines that are inside malls or stores, and always keep receipts instead of throwing them in the nearest trash can.

If shopping with a child, be sure to instruct the child to contact a store clerk if you become separated.

When hitting store after store, Cumiskey cautions shoppers not to leave packages in the car.

"Lock packages in the trunk, lock your vehicles and don't leave a purse lying on the seat, even if you're just running into a store for a minute," he advised.

Leaving the expensive jewelry at home during a marathon shopping trip is always a good idea, authorities say, and being aware of strangers around is always a good idea.

For personal safety, shop during daylight hours when possible. If it isn't possible, bring a friend or family member. Have keys ready before leaving a store to reach a vehicle, or when leaving a vehicle to go into a house. It is also important to avoid being so overloaded with bags and packages that a clear path of visibility is impossible. The same goes with parking in a well lit area.

There are a few measures that can be taken at home, also.

"Take the time to lock up, and make sure you have good locks," Cumiskey stated. "Any house can be broken into, but criminals are looking for the easiest targets -- places they can walk in and walk out."

A tree piled high with gifts is a temptation for any criminal, so placing gifts where they are out of sight of windows and doors can't hurt.