On Duty with the CHP: Holidays call for extra planning, vigilance in quest to stay safe

CHP reminder: Don't become a target of thieves this holiday season

The California Highway Patrol shares a reminder about how to protect what you've bought before it gets home.
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The California Highway Patrol shares a reminder about how to protect what you've bought before it gets home.

Traditionally the holiday season is the most heavily traveled time of the year. Motorists will face long lines at airports as well as heavily congested freeways.

Many of you will be heading out to the local shopping malls in search of the perfect gift. While you go shopping, please exercise caution and patience as you make your way to and around your favorite shopping centers.

Keep in mind not everyone has the same idea about the holiday spirit as you do. Criminals see your packages as an opportunity. You and your loved ones must stay alert while shopping. Here are some safety tips to follow during this holiday season:

▪ Be patient. The roadways and freeways are packed with people doing the exact same thing you are – traveling and shopping. Have some courtesy and allow folks space to change lanes and maneuver their vehicles in front of you. Slow down and take it easy. A traffic collision or citation can really put a damper on the holiday.

Leave early when traveling long distances to allow yourself time to get to your location safely. Your ultimate goal is to arrive at your destination, so don’t try to rush by speeding, beating a traffic signal, or doing something that could cause you or someone else to be involved in a traffic collision.

▪ When out shopping, park in well-lit areas and as close to a mall or store entrance as possible. Don’t settle for an isolated parking spot just because you’re in a hurry. Be patient and hold out for a safe spot for your vehicle. Your safety and that of your family members should be a priority.

When you leave your vehicle, make sure to lock your doors and keep the windows rolled up. If you have an alarm on your vehicle, be sure to activate it.

Don’t leave valuable items inside your car that are visible to others. Place packages in the trunk of your car or hide them under the seats. Thieves are looking for easy targets. Do not be one of those targets.

▪ Carry bags close to your body. For example, carry your purse in your hand and not dangling from your shoulder. Men, move your wallet to your front pocket to deter thieves from an easy access to your back pocket.

Be on alert and aware of strangers who may be approaching you for whatever reason. If a criminal attacks you for your purse or packages, give them your belongings. Your life is more important! Material items can be replaced, but your life cannot. If the attacker tries to hurt you or a loved one, scream as loud as you can to draw attention and deter them from hurting you or your loved one.

▪ Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you are shopping at night, try to go with another person or a group of people. If you are shopping alone and leaving the mall late at night, ask a security officer to accompany you to your car. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Don’t advertise large rolls of money in public as you never know who may be watching you.

At this time of year there are thieves trying various ways to distract you with the intention of taking your money and belongings. Remember to pay close attention to those around you and have your keys ready as you approach your car.

These warnings are not meant to create a sense of paranoia, as not everyone out there is a bad person looking to do you or your loved ones harm. I just want you to be careful this holiday season while you are out and about making those holiday purchases. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Officer Traci Gallian can be reached at tgallian@chp.ca.gov. For more from the CHP Central Division, go to the division’s Facebook page.