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While shoppers hunt Black Friday deals, thieves hunt easy targets

Photo provided by staff
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 1:00pm

The holiday shopping season is roughly 36 hours away. Shoppers are predicted to spend around $600 billion this year. But a lot of those presents will not go home with the people that bought them, they'll be stolen.

"The holidays are a time where there are more opportunities for crime, and criminals are opportunists," stated Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office.

Roughly 140 million people will spend Black Friday at the mall. Steals are everywhere, and many items are stolen from cost-conscious shoppers.

If you go fight the crowds for the best bargains, you become a target for thieves. And even though people plan on spending a lot of money, money is actually something will make you appealing to a robber.

"Don't carry a lot of cash on you," Hicks advised. "If you bring your debit card, make sure you know exactly where it is; make sure that no one's watching you enter your PIN number."

Some people choose to drive all around town to find the perfect gift, while others drop off one load of presents in their car so they can go back for more. But when people rush in and out of stores, the car can become a gift to a thief.

"When you get into your vehicle, if you leave things in your car, secure them in the trunk," Hicks said. "Your purse, any valuables.

"You want to make it as difficult as possible for a burglar that you can. Cause basically, more than 90 percent of our vehicle burglaries are unlocked cars."

Some people have already set out tents and folding chairs so they can be the first in line and take advantage of the biggest savings. But Hicks said criminals are not likely to take advantage of them.

"I think, typically, most cases, they're pretty safe," she mentioned, "because they are with other people, and they're in well-lit areas and there's usually additional security at those stores, as well."

Malls and stores will increase security for Black Friday, and the Sheriff's Office will have extra patrols in both residential and commercial areas. It will also have plain-clothes deputies at shopping malls, looking for suspicious behavior, and bait cars to trap thieves. But paying attention to one's surroundings is the best way to have a good start to the holiday season.

"You're shopping, and that's important," Hicks said, "but your safety is much more important."

Criminals will also wait until people unwrap their presents to steal from them. If you get something big, do not leave the box out by the street.

"When you get home, let's say you bought a flat-screen TV for Christmas," Hicks said. "Don't put that box out by the street, cause what you've done is, now you've alerted a criminal to the fact that there is a new flat-screen TV inside."

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