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Stay safe during the holidays with these simple tips | Column
The beautiful lights decorating so many Bothell homes and businesses make it clear the holidays have arrived. While this special season is a time of fun and celebration, it can also be a distracting, overly busy time of year. Unfortunately, criminals are all too willing to use our lack of attention for their own advantage. The Bothell Police Department wants you to have safe and happy holidays. To that end, we offer you some simple safety tips to remember when you are out doing your holiday and post holiday shopping.
Make sure that you keep your car doors locked while driving and when leaving your vehicle parked. If you have a car alarm or other anti-theft device for your car, use it. Avoid distracted driving. Don’t text, check your email messages or fiddle with your GPS while driving. It only takes a second of inattention to cause a tragedy. Stay alert for other drivers who are inattentive or erratic. Keep your car's gas tank at least half-filled to help you cope with traffic delays or emergencies. If shopping at night, park in a well-lit location, if possible next to a light pole. This ensures you will have adequate lighting near your car and can also be a useful reference point in a crowded parking lot when you are trying to locate your car. Never leave your car unoccupied with the engine running. Make sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car so that you can quickly unlock the door. Be aware of people loitering in the area. If you feel uneasy, never hesitate to ask store security for an escort out to your car.
Small children should never be left alone in your vehicle. Teach children to stay close to you at all times while shopping. Make sure that your children know what to do if they become separated from you while shopping. Children should be taught to go to a store clerk and ask for help if they become lost. As young as possible, they should be taught to say their name and phone number too. Practice!
Young children should never be allowed to go to the restroom or out to the car alone.
When shopping, it is safer to use credit or debit cards rather than carrying a large amount of cash. If you carry a purse, carry it snugly against your side and never leave it sitting in a shopping cart, on a store counter or on top of your car.
If you have to use an ATM, find one that is in a well-lit location such as inside a mall. Protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you. Your PIN should never be written down and carried with your ATM card. Some criminals have begun to install fake panels on ATM machines that contain a small camera which captures your card number and PIN. Take the time to inspect the ATM machine you are planning to use. If something looks odd to you, don’t use that ATM. If you notice someone loitering, nearby an ATM that you are planning to use and it makes you nervous, go to another ATM.
Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
Storing your gifts and valuables
It is best not to leave packages, purses, backpacks or other valuables in your car. If you don’t have a choice and need to store things such as shopping bags in your vehicle, make sure they are put out of sight, preferably locked in a trunk.
Plan your shopping/errands so that you don't load your trunk until you are ready to drive to another destination. If you have to take packages to your car and then return to shopping, consider moving your car a few lanes away. Thieves like to stake out parking lots for people leaving purchases in their car and returning to stores. If they see you get in and drive away they will likely assume your shopping trip is over and look for another target.Put your vehicle registration in your glove box and lock it. Thieves have been known to break into vehicles parked at theaters and malls, then go to the address listed on the vehicle registration to burglarize the home.
Lock your doors and windows when leaving your home. Put some lights, both indoor and outdoor, on an automatic timer. When leaving your home for several hours, turn on a few lights and keep a radio or TV on. Make sure that large displays of gifts are not visible through your windows where strangers might easily see them.
Your vigilance and attention can play a key role in ensuring you have happy, trouble-free holidays.
Thanks for helping us keep you safe!
Carol Cummings is the Chief of Police in the City of Bothell.