Sheriff gives crime preventtips for holiday season; reminds parents about children’s activities during school break

People out shopping during the heightened excitement and stress of Christmas and New Year’s activities can easily become targets for criminals, St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann said.

Whether St. Bernard residents are in the parish or elsewhere during the holidays as they shop for gifts or visit others, the sheriff said they should take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of theft or robbery.

“Remember to pay close attention to your surroundings in and outside of stores.’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.

“It’s possible someone may be watching to take advantage of those people distracted while busily rushing from place to place,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.

“Holidays are a time when people often are on the go and could let their guard down,” he said. “Just remember to follow common sense tips to reduce the chances of anything going wrong.’’

Here are some suggestions for having a safe and happy holiday time, Sheriff Pohlmann said:

Pay attention to where you park while shopping and, at night, park only in areas that are well-lit, and then lock all doors. Once in a store, men should protect their wallets from pickpockets and women should remember not to leave their purses unattended in shopping carts and don’t put them down on counters or floors where they can be taken.

Always escort young children to a restroom because minors could be photographed, molested or even abducted if left alone in public restrooms. If shopping in a large store or mall establish a meeting place in case parents and children become separated.

If possible, all parties should have cell phones to contact one another. Tell your children in advance that if they become separated from you they should go only to a store clerk or security officer for help, and not to a stranger who doesn’t work in the store.

When leaving a store for a vehicle, scan the parking lot for any suspicious activities, including people standing around in a group or sitting in a vehicle obviously watching patrons leave.

At night, you may want to ask a store officer to escort you. If walking alone, leave from a door nearest your parked vehicle, have your vehicle keys in hand and, once inside, lock the doors before leaving your parking space.

It is also a good idea to walk around your car and look inside it at night when you are in a crowded parking lot. It could prevent you from getting inside and finding someone waiting in the vehicle to rob you.

Also, when children are out of school for holiday breaks parents – just as they would during summer school breaks – need to take proactive steps and ask where they will be and establish times for them to check in.

Cell phones are the best method of directly staying in touch with teen-age minors who are away from their parents, but if they are going to another teen-ager’s home parents should insist on knowing the telephone number of an adult who will be there.