The holiday season is not only a busy time for shoppers but also for the criminal element looking to take advantage of distractions that can leave innocent people vulnerable.

Roman Milert, ThinkStock

The Johnson City Police Department has posted on their facebook page a long list of things people can keep in mind to protect themselves from becoming victims.

For example, it may seem to be a time saver to limit trips back and forth to your vehicle, but you should not buy more than you can carry.  An overloaded shopper could be a victim to a thief waiting to snatch packages or purses in the parking lot.  Authorities say you can plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you get your packages to your vehicle.

Have your keys handy when you get to your car to avoid fumbling around with your attention away from your purchases and surroundings. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.

Park in well-lighted areas.

Don't wave your money around and keep a firm grip on purses at all times.  Year round, there are reports of purses snatched from shopping carts when the victim only turns their back or steps away for a moment to direct their attention elsewhere.  Police say it only takes two seconds for someone to snatch a purse and disappear.

When shopping with children, make sure you arrange for a central meeting place if you should become separated and make sure children know your cell phone number and who is safe to ask for help, like a store employee or security person.

Take a photo of your child on your phone so you have a record of exactly what they look like and what they are wearing.


For the increasing number of people shopping online, make sure your security systems are updated. Guard your personal information and shop from secure sites.  Also, shop at sites from companies you know and trust. Pop-up bargain websites may not be what they seem.  Police say you should be wary of any unbelievable offer.  Most times the old warning applies: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

As always, make sure you keep your treasures in a safe place. Never leave valuables in vehicles, especially in plain sight and always lock your car and home.

During the holidays, it's not hard for a thief to figure out where to find your prizes hard-won from weeks of saving and hours of shopping.

To find more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, visit the National Crime Prevention Council’s website: