PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

November 26, 2013

Keep keys ready and stay safe while shopping

— Shoppers will soon be flooding malls and local stores in search of the perfect Christmas gift, and law enforcement wants to remind citizens to be safe.

Sgt. Scott Gaspard with the Port Arthur Police Department offered some advice to shoppers.

“Keep your keys in your hand and have them ready as you exit the building,” Gaspard said. “Look around, be aware of your surroundings.”

Gaspard said most malls have someone on hand who can escort shoppers to the parking lot and asks people to check and see if this service is available.

Beaumont Police Department also offered some safety tips for the holiday season.

Dress for shopping. Wear comfortable clothing with a number of pockets. Avoid flashy jewelry, whether it is real or costume and wear comfortable shoes in case you must run from an assailant, according to a press release from BPD.

Carry cash in denominations no larger than a $20 bill. Carry your cash in various locations on your body such as pockets, socks, bras, etc. If you carry a check book, make sure that you keep up with your check numbers and receipts. This will assist you in canceling checks. Carry only the credit cards you will need while you are shopping. Always log your credit card numbers, the 800 numbers, and keep them in a safe place just in case you have to cancel them.

Drive with you car doors locked. Don’t take the chance of someone jumping in the car with you at a stop sign or red light.

If you are attacked, do not resist. There is nothing in your package, purse or wallet that is worth your life. If you are forced into a physical confrontation to protect yourself or others, scream to call attention to yourself. You can use your keys or thumbs to gouge the attacker’s eyes, use the heel of your hand to jam the attacker’s nose or Adam’s apple, knee to the groin area or stomp down on top of the attacker’s foot. The purpose of these defense tactics is to stun your attacker so that you may make a quick escape.

Investigator Roger Ross with the Southeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force offered three basic safety tips to motorists to prevent crimes during the holidays and all year round.

“Lock your car, take your keys, hide your belongings prior to arriving at your destination,” Ross said. “If you do these, you’re not going to have a problem.”

Last year thieves stole 848 vehicles in Southeast Texas. Many of those had unlocked doors and the vehicle’s keys were left inside, according to Ross. Southeast Texans should be aware that leaving their vehicle unattended with the keys inside can also lead to a citation, which carries a $200 fine.

“We want everyone to have a joyous holiday season without the frustration of having their vehicle burglarized or stolen when they can easily prevent such crimes from happening.”

Ross said the department has also seen numerous thefts of ladies purses. He suggests women just not bring their purse and instead put essentials in your pockets.

“We used to tell people to put their purse in the trunk but most cars have a latch inside to unlock the trunk,” he said.

But theft of purses isn’t the only theft the task force has dealt with.

“Another thing we’re experiencing is the theft of firearms. Thieves are finding vehicles unlocked — you’d be surprised at the number of people with an unlocked car and a gun inside,” he said. “The thieves go around and pull on door handles, get inside and start digging. The first thing they find is a gun. Now you’ve put a gun in the hand of a minor criminal who may use it and become a major criminal.”

The liability of the gun will follow the owner. If a thief steals a gun from an unlocked car, commits a robbery and kills a person, then the thief will go to prison. The family of the deceased person may look to sue someone and since they likely won’t sue the criminal, the next person would be the gun owner.

Ross also advises shoppers to not leave items visible in the vehicle and to record serial numbers.

“If you leave your GPS dangling from the rearview window, that acts as bait, so the criminal does a ‘smash, grab and go.’ Also, make sure to record serial numbers, especially on guns. If an item is stolen, iPod, radar detector etc., make sure you have the serial numbers,” he said.

The numbers will be put through a series of databases as well as pawn shop systems.

Anyone wanting more information on auto crimes, prevention tips or wanting to arrange a presentation for a civic group can call Investigator Roger Ross at 8422-6341, extension 1528.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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