Public safety expert talks safe holiday shopping

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Sunday is the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas is just one week away. For many of us, that means one thing, it’s time for some last-minute shopping. Many people are getting out money for spending, going on trips to different stores and cramming those bags in your car, it’s routine.

It’s time to make a list and check it twice to make sure you don’t get victimized.

Every year, the same stories play out, porch pirates, smash and grabs and purse snatchers. The trauma of it all seems to linter much longer than the crime itself.

“Your personal safety is something, once it’s taken from you, once an event occurs, you really can’t get that back,” said Paul Szych, retired APD commander and KOB public safety expert.

During the holidays, crime is the last thing we want to think about.

“No one wants to think about scary possibilities,” said Szych. “I don’t want to.”

When the streets are busy, money is flowing, that means the good are plentiful and criminals are watching.

The idea is to take some extra time to make yourself less appealing to criminals this time of year, and it should start at your car before leaving your house. Don’t bring a purse, if you have to take your money out, put it in your pocket. Then hide your purse in the trunk of your car, that goes for shopping bags or items you buy along the way.

“Criminals are looking for the easy opportunity,” said Szych.

Easy opportunity, like people who are distracted walking to and from their cars, on a phone or engaged in conversation, or those who unknowingly create opportunity.

“Really it’s failing to look at your surroundings, thinking that an individual is not watching you, not following you,” said Szych.

Don’t park next to a car that’s occupied, especially if you have to pass it to get to the store. Make sure you get a good look at people you pass to get there.

“You look less appealing to them when you look at them because they look at you as somebody who is paying attention,” said Szych.

We would all like to think we would notice someone watching or following us, so we’re going to test that out with one of our own unsuspecting photographers.

“You told me it was James’ birthday, and we needed to go get some cupcakes since your car was in the shop. You needed a ride real quick,” said Luke McKinney, a KOB photographer.

We didn’t tell him our public safety expert would be following us, turn for turn, to the grocery store. Or that he would walk in behind us, waiting for the perfect moment to take my purse from the cart and walk out of the store, passing security, and store employees, with my purse over his shoulder, completely undetected.

“I noticed a white car behind us as we were driving down there, yeah,” said McKinney. “I just didn’t think twice because cars here, we use our white, and it was around the same neighborhood and I just didn’t really think anything of it.”

“Those criminals are always out, always looking, and it’s simply a matter of you being at the wrong place at the wrong time and not looking at your surroundings to be made a victim very quickly,” said Szych. “You got your door open. That’s the first thing you want to do. quickly do that then as you’re doing that you hit the button to close the door and you watch it the entire time it closes.”

Make sure that no one follows you in, and look out for areas where someone can hide. Szych points out, getting past garage door sensors is pretty easy. 

While the holidays present a lot of opportunity for criminals, these types of thefts and burglaries really happen all year round. Paying a little extra attention at stores, leaving your car and even gassing up can make a huge difference.