Take precautions while out shopping for gifts
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Now that the Christmas shopping season is in full swing, Brooklyn residents are running to malls, department stores and mom-and-pop shops to buy gifts for friends and relatives. But before you decide which sweater to buy for your Aunt Gladys, Ilene Sacco has some friendly words of advice for you.
Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council, sent an email blast out to thousands of people on the community council’s subscribers list warning that criminals are always out there looking for victims, especially during the holiday season when residents’ minds are preoccupied with shopping, cooking and other holiday-related tasks.
The 68th Precinct covers Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, but Sacco's timely advice could apply to anyone anywhere.
“As we now head into the holiday season (and the shopping season) it is imperative to remember that this could be the perfect time for those who are looking to do harm,” Sacco, a lawyer, wrote in an email, a copy of which was obtained by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“People are carrying more money or more credit cards than usual. Many will have expensive gift items in their cars. The excitement of the holiday season can also cause people to let down their guard,” she said.
The good news, according to Sacco, is that there are precautions one can take to increase safety during the holiday shopping season and to decrease the chances of becoming a victim.
Working with Dep. Insp. Richard DiBlasio, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, Sacco compiled a list of holiday shopping safety tips.
Among the suggestions: Always lock your car. Before getting into your car, check the back seat to make sure no one is hiding there.
If you must put packages in your car, always put them in the trunk and make sure the trunk is locked. Never leave unattended packages in the passenger compartment.
Here are other safety tips: Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Criminals often confront people who are distracted. Don’t carry large sums of money. Take only what you need for that particular shopping trip. If you must take a large sum divide the cash between your purse, various pockets and your wallet.
Don’t carry credit cards that you don’t need. Record the numbers of each of the credit cards that you have. This will make it easier to report the loss or theft of the cards.
If you are carrying a wallet, carry it in the breast pocket of your jacket or in your side pants pocket. The rear pants pocket is one of the easiest pockets for a pickpocket to pick.
In a restaurant or restroom, do not leave your packages or your purse unattended. Never place your purse on the floor of any establishment.
Do not leave electronic devices visible in your car (navigation devices, cell phones, laptops etc.) And never leave your wallet or pocketbook in your car unattended to run out, even for a moment.
Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, the two neighborhoods the 68th Precinct protects, have a combined five shopping strips (Third, Fifth and 13th avenues, 86th Street, and Fort Hamilton Parkway). Tens of thousands of shoppers are expected to visit the area between now and Christmas.
Many of those shoppers will be making a few purchases at the store, placing the items in their cars for safekeeping, and then returning to do more shopping.
According to the New York Police Department’s website, a car is stolen on average every 21 seconds in the US.
The website suggests that drivers never leave a car running unattended, even to dash into a store. Also, drivers should never leave keys in the car, the ignition, or in hide-a-key boxes.
Crime prevention tips are being offered by police in all parts of Brooklyn as the Christmas shopping season moves into high gear.
At a recent Community Board 11 meeting in Bensonhurst, Capt. William Taylor, commanding officer of the 62nd Precinct, said cops will be paying special attention to the giant parking lot at the Caesar's Bay Shopping Mall on Shore Parkway.
"Don't leave your credit cards in the car," Taylor warned Board 11 members. "They're watching," he said, referring to thieves.