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Curbing holiday crime

Robert Blechl and Leslie Simmons

BURBANK -- Shoppers aren’t the only ones swarming the streets and

malls during the holiday season.

Because thieves are also doing their own kind of shopping, local law

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enforcement officials are advising rushed consumers to be careful.

Perhaps the most important tip officials have is for shoppers to keep

track of their shopping bags and not to keep valuable items in plain

view.

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“The main thing to do when you are walking is to be aware of your

surroundings, especially women with purses,” said Los Angeles Police Sgt.

James Brady. “Hold onto them tightly. There’s a lot of purse snatchers

walking around.”

Burbank Police Officer Rick Penaranda, whose beat includes the Media

City Center, agreed with that advice and said women should also keep

their purses zipped.

“Sometimes, women like to keep the purses unzipped because it’s easy

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to pull out their wallet,” he said.

Penaranda also said that shoppers should be weary of putting shopping

bags in the trunk of their cars and then returning for more shopping.

“People roam around parking lots and follow people to their cars,” he

said. “They’ll see the person put bags in their trunk and leave. Then

they’ll break into the trunk and take the bags.”

However, Penaranda said that when shoppers go from one store to

another they should leave their packages in the trunk and not on a back

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seat or otherwise in plain view.

Those with station wagons, sport utility vehicles and cars that don’t

have trunks should keep their packages covered, he added.

Sheriff’s Capt. Garry Leonard said thieves aren’t just out looking for

gifts, though.

“The No. 1 thing people do up here is leave valuable things in their

unlocked cars,” he said. “People are always breaking into cars to steal

cellular phones, briefcases and computers. During the holiday season it

gets even worse.

Brady said the same logic is applicable to homes.

“Keep your house secure,” Brady said. “Don’t have high-dollar items

sitting within plain sight. Gifts sitting by your bay window are just

asking to get stolen.”

INFO BOX:

HOLIDAY SHOPPING TIPS

* Don’t leave bags unattended

* In dressing rooms, keep bags up on a chair or bench and not hanging

behind door or on the ground where thieves can reach in and grab them.

* Don’t take out a wad of money when paying for items. Shoppers should

keep only a small amount of cash.

* Women should keep purses zipped and, if possible, keep credit cards

and cash in their pockets and not in their purse.

* Shoppers should be aware of people following or watching them put

shopping bags in car.

* Keep gifts in trunk or in an area of the car out of plain view.


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