11/25/05 — Shoppers urged to be extra cautious

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Shoppers urged to be extra cautious

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 25, 2005 1:48 PM

As shoppers flock to malls and shopping centers for the beginning of the holiday buying season, Wayne County law-enforcement officers are urging them to be extra cautious.

Thieves, as well as shoppers, will be out in force, they say.

"Unfortunately, when shopping, people have a tendency to let their guard down," Sheriff Carey Winders said. "However, there are precautions that people can take to help eliminate their chances of being a victim."

Any suspicious activity in a parking lot, mall or shopping center should be reported immediately to law enforcement, Goldsboro Police Sgt. David Kelly said.

Witnesses should be prepared to give investigators a description of the suspects and any vehicle involved, Kelly said.

Vehicle break-ins have increased dramatically across the county, according to reports filed recently with the Sheriff's Office.

Goldsboro Police Chief Tim Bell said an experienced thief needs only a few seconds to open an unlocked car and only a few more seconds to break a window or force a door open to enter a car to steal Christmas presents or other valuables.

Law authorities urged motorists to lock their vehicles and to put packages out of view, in a trunk, if possible, and park in well-lighted areas. Sport utility vehicles and vans do not have trunks, but many have covers and tinted windows to conceal packages.

"The biggest thing is not to leave anything in plain sight, on the seat or the floorboard," Kelly said.

Kelly suggested that shoppers take only the credit cards and cash that they will need. Winders added that people should record their credit card numbers so that they can be reported quickly if they are stolen or lost.

The sheriff also suggested that women shoppers keep their car keys in a jacket pocket, instead of their purses, so that they could drive home if their purses were stolen.

When shoppers get home, Kelly said, they should keep their receipts so that they can question any unauthorized transactions.

Shoppers should not flash large amounts of money, said police Investigator Mike Moore.

"Safeguard your personal information," Kelly added. "If people question you about your date of birth or Social Security number, ask them why they need that."

The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that shoppers should keep a tight grip on their purses and wallets. Purses should be closed and kept snugly against the body, and wallets should be carried in the front coat or pants pockets. The council also asks parents to review safety shopping tips with their children and to forbid them to accept treats from strangers.