As residents crowd retail stores for holiday sales, Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said deputies are out in force to prevent criminals targeting shoppers.
“Members of our Special Operations Unit will be conducting surveillance, and extra patrols will be assigned to monitor business establishments to help ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable shopping experience,” Morris said.
A Martinez woman recently called authorities after she was nearly assaulted in the Walmart parking lot. As she loaded items into the back of her car outside the Bobby Jones Expressway store at about 9:30 p.m. Dec. 2, the 36-year-old said a man talking on a cellphone suddenly charged at her. As she ran away, the woman fell. When she got up, her would-be assailant was gone. Witnesses said he fled toward Richmond County.
Morris suggested that buyers take extra precautions to avoid becoming a target.
Trust your instincts, he said.
“If something you see or hear makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious, it’s probably because it should,” Morris said. “Our request is that you call law enforcement.”
Wait until asked before taking out credit cards or checkbooks, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, to help prevent an enterprising thief from “shoulder surfing” to get credit card information.
Deter pickpockets by carrying purses close to the body or wallets inside a coat or front trouser pocket, according to the council. Pay close attention to shopping bags and purses so they can’t be switched or stolen. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Promote safety in numbers by shopping with friends or family, Morris said.
Have keys in your hand when approaching the vehicle, and check in and around the car before getting in.
Morris said to keep vehicles locked, as most stolen items are stolen from unlocked vehicles.
“People who prefer to stow shopping bags and gifts in their vehicle should do so by placing items in the trunk or out of plain sight between shopping trips,” Morris said. “Experienced thieves often stake out parking lots to watch for people putting items in their vehicle.”
For residents leaving town, Morris suggested using the sheriff’s office House Watch program by calling (706) 541-2800. Deputies will check on the home periodically for no charge.