As holiday shoppers cross those last-minute Christmas gifts off of their lists, the Cape Coral Police Department is offering some basic tips to help keep them and their purchases safe this season.
"When people are out shopping, fulfilling those big Christmas wish lists, they are often focused on that," Sgt. Dana Coston, spokesman for the Cape police, said Tuesday.
Shoppers may not be as alert or aware of their own safety as they are at other times of the year.
"Keep some common sense things in mind," he said.
The biggest tip - lock your vehicle's doors. When hopping between several stores, people may forget to lock their doors from one stop to the next stop, providing burglars with the perfect opportunity.
"Ninety percent of vehicle burglaries committed in Cape Coral involve unlocked vehicles," Coston said. "That's a pretty consistent statistic year after year."
'Top Ten' Safe Shopping Tips
- Plan your shopping trips in advance.
- Park in well lit areas.
- Shop with a friend.
- Secure holiday shopping goods in your trunk, out of sight.
- Lock your car doors.
- When carrying a purse, wear it with the strap across your body, not over one shoulder.
- Limit public display of cash; use credit/debit/gift cards if possible.
- Practice situational awareness.
- At night, have your keys in hand and items ready to be stowed as you head to your car.
- If you see something out of the ordinary, immediately notify store personnel.
Source: Cape Coral Police Department
Secure items and merchandise out of sight, such as in the vehicle's trunk.
Shoppers should also practice situational awareness.
"Be aware of what's going on around you," he said. "Just take an extra second or two."
Despite their self perception, men should also practice situational awareness.
"A lot of men have a false sense of security because of their size and stature," Coston said.
Aim to park in well lit areas and try shopping with a friend.
"Make sure that you are moving with a purpose to and from your car," he said.
Women who carry a purse should never set it in the shopping cart. Coston noted that his grandmother was a victim of this. She set her purse down, turned around and when she looked back, it was gone.
"Always keep your purse on your person, preferably with the strap across the body," he said.
Limit public displays of cash; use credit, debit or gifts cards when possible.
People who see something out of the ordinary while shopping should notify store personnel.
"The store can deal with the problem or have us come out," Coston said.
Shoppers planning to score some last-minute deals online should avoid using a debit card.
"The same protections do not necessarily apply to your debit card as they do to your credit cards," he said. "Even though their debit card says Visa, it is not the same."
Coston urged people to use credit cards or gift cards instead online if possible.