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Shop safely by following crime-prevention tips

November 25, 1997

Shop safely by following crime-prevention tips

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Holiday shoppers aren't the only ones flocking to malls, shopping centers and downtown shopping areas at this time of year.

The concentration of shoppers attracts more would-be grinches, warn police officials, who say robberies and vehicle break-ins increase during the holiday season.

Maryland State Police try to deter those crimes - and shoplifting - with increased visibility, said Lt. Donald Knott, commander of the Hagerstown barrack.

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Troopers will focus on road safety during the Thanksgiving travel rush, Knott said.

Once that's over, they'll shift more attention to shopping areas, where they'll be encouraged to get out of their cruisers and walk around, he said.

Security will be beefed up at the Valley Mall during the holiday shopping season, said mall Manager Tim Nolan.

"We increase security as customer traffic increases," Nolan said.

The mall has 24-hour security inside and outside, including a security vehicle patrolling the parking lot, he said.

For shoppers, the best weapons against becoming a victim are care and common sense, Knott said. He offered the following tips:

-- Make sure your car is locked and all packages and valuables are out of sight.

-- Park in a well-lighted area.

-- Try not to walk through parking lots alone.

-- If possible, plan shopping trips with a friend.

-- If you are alone, tag along with other shoppers headed in the same direction, even if that means waiting at the exit a few minutes until other shoppers come out.

-- When you get back to your vehicle, make sure to look inside, under and around your vehicle before getting in.

"It takes a little time, but it's certainly something wise to do," he said.

As a defensive tool, Knott suggests carrying a whistle or hand-held siren and using it if you feel threatened.

In many cases, the loud, piercing noise will be enough to scare away a mugger, he said.

If not, it will at least summon help, Knott said.

The Maryland Retailers Association offers these additional tips:

-- Don't forget where you parked your car. Note which store or entrance is closest to your car and exit from there when returning to your car.

-- Don't park next to a van in which people can hide.

-- Carry your keys in your hand.

-- Don't carry a lot of packages at once.

-- Don't flash large amounts of cash.

-- If you feel threatened, ask a security guard or police officer for help or for an escort to your vehicle.

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