From St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office
With the holiday season near, many of us will find ourselves rushing from place to place, making lists, and stressing over finding the perfect gift for that special loved one. Busy schedules, holiday parties and heightened stress can leave us distracted and not aware of our surroundings causing us to become easy targets for criminals, St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann said.
Whether you’re shopping in the parish or elsewhere during this holiday season, Sheriff Pohlmann urges St. Bernard Parish residents to take extra precautions to avoid becoming a victim of theft or robbery.
“Remember to pay close attention to your surroundings when doing holiday shopping,” the Sheriff said. “It’s possible someone may be watching to take advantage of you because you’re distracted.”
Since the holidays are a time when people often let their guard down because they’re on the go, Sheriff Pohlmann said, “Remembering some common sense safety tips can reduce the chances of something going wrong.”
The Sheriff recommends shopping with a buddy or in a group, but if you must go alone, be aware of your surroundings and follow these simple tips:
- Pay attention to where you park while shopping and, at night, park only in areas that are well-lit. Always try to park as close as possible to the store’s entrance and remember to lock your vehicle doors. Taking a photo of where you parked with your cell phone is also helpful in case you forget.
- Once in a store, men should protect their wallets from pickpockets and women should remember not to leave their purses unattended in shopping carts or on counters where they can easily be taken.
- Always escort young children to a restroom because minors could be photographed, molested or even abducted if left alone in public restrooms.
- When shopping in a large store or mall, establish a meeting place with children in advance in case you become separated or instruct them to go only to a store clerk or security officer for help, and not to a stranger who doesn’t work in the store.
- Scan the parking lot before you exit a store for any suspicious activities, such as people standing in a group in one area or someone sitting in a vehicle watching patrons leave. If you sense something odd, you may want to ask a store officer to escort you to your vehicle.
- When leaving a store, always exit from the door nearest your parked vehicle. Before heading to your vehicle, have your keys out and in your hand ready to enter your vehicle. Don’t wait until you reach your vehicle to start looking in your purse or pockets for your keys.
- It’s a good idea to walk around your car and look inside it when you are in a crowded parking lot. Checking the inside of your vehicle before you enter it could prevent you from unexpectedly finding someone waiting in the vehicle to rob you.
- Once inside your vehicle, lock the doors immediately before leaving your parking space. Avoid sitting in your vehicle and doing things like talking on the phone or looking at social media. Leave the parking lot as soon as possible.
- If you are making several stops while shopping, place your packages in your trunk or out of plain sight inside your vehicle. Leaving valuable items visible only provides a temptation to thieves.
- With Covid-19 still a concern, remember to bring enough face masks and hand sanitizer for each family member. Also remember to bring proof of vaccination for places that require it for entry.
- If you suspect someone is following you, do not go home or pull over. You should remain calm and drive to a crowded place or a nearby Sheriff’s Office substation for assistance.
- Once home, unload your packages immediately. Do not store valuables in your car any longer than necessary, and certainly never overnight.
The Sheriff also urges residents to call the Sheriff’s Office at 504-271-2501 if they see something suspicious or 911 if they feel they’re in immediate danger. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Sheriff Pohlmann wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season.