By Sheree Stubblefield

It’s everyone’s (well most people’s, I’m looking at you Grinch) favorite time of year. There’s shopping, parties, caroling and unfortunately crime; which makes this time of year a favorite for criminals as well. Below, we have listed some proactive ways to stay safe while you are out and about this holiday season.

There’s safety in numbers. While you are out, especially at night, keep your friends and family close. Statistically speaking, your risk of being a victim of crime goes down significantly when you go out in a group. So grab a shopping buddy and make sure you don’t walk to your car alone.

Don’t get distracted. A number of crimes are crimes of opportunity. That means even though you may feel safe talking on the phone while walking alone, it actually makes you a moving target. Be alert, stay vigilante and look around so that if anyone is watching they know they can’t catch you off guard.

Make sure you aren’t being followed. This time of year, criminals are lying in wait for their next victim. Don’t be one of them! If a car appears to be following you, don’t try to lose them. Head straight to the nearest police station. Don’t go put your bags in your car and head back into the mall. There’s a good chance someone could be watching and will break into your car. Which brings us to our next point…

Trust your gut. If something feels off, don’t brush it off. If a car looks suspicious, don’t ignore it. Get help or assistance instead of facing it head on yourself. Sometimes, your gut is the only thing you have to protect yourself and it’s usually right. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help. It could mean the difference between being safe and being a victim.

Don’t overshare. It’s 2019 and social media is life. But sometimes oversharing when you will be out of town and what you have bought for Christmas can make you a vulnerable target with people looking for a crime of opportunity. Make sure your posts are private. Post after you return home (but don’t tell everyone about your new big screen). Always tell your trusted neighbors to watch your home while away. And consider a home surveillance system with motion lights.

Use common sense shopping tips. Don’t carry too much cash. Park in well-lit areas that aren’t too isolated. Shop during the day if possible. Be careful of being approached by strangers. They could be looking to con you in some way. Be careful of carrying too many shopping bags so that you don’t look like a prime target. Your safest bet? Shop online from the comfort of your home.

Keep your packages safe. Porch thievery is a rising crime with the increase in online shopping. This year, if you plan to do a lot of online shopping, send it to an Amazon Locker at places like Whole Foods or Fedex rather than your home if you won’t be there. That way, you know that your new gadget (or cat food) is safe from pesky porch theives.

And most of all, don’t leave your kid at home when you go to France.

The non-emergency line for the Memphis Police is 545-COPS (2677).

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