030fec803efa06c15cf6d3ed4e5c663dNo, I’m not here to advise you on how to keep safe from the lady you just stole that last pair of clearance Cole Haans from, or, as my witty editor put it, to “carry a bottle of mace for that shopper who wants to throw down in the clearance aisle.” (Ha! That’s a whole ‘nother article I may take up later). When people are busy with all the hustle and bustle that is holiday time, we’re often distracted with thoughts of holiday parties, visiting family, hosting get-togethers, travel, gifts, you name it – and criminals, who seemingly come out from hiding during holiday season, see this distraction as an opportunity to prey on easy targets.

As Christmas approaches, most stores have extended hours – with many staying open until midnight. Lots of folks take advantage of this – perhaps they’re crowd-averse, hate waiting in lines, or in my case, have little ones that make shopping difficult during daytime hours. Shopping after my little one’s bedtime not only allows me to focus all of my attention on purchases, it’s also nice to steal a little time to myself without baby in tow. While I enjoy the downtime, I’m not oblivious to the dangers of late-night shopping. Walking through a quiet parking lot with my hands full of bags at 11 pm isn’t necessarily the safest, or smartest, thing to do. (Hello prime target for an attack. You can’t see me, but I’m doing Blake Shelton’s finger pointing — from The Voice — right now at my own head). For me, it’s a choice. For others, it might be inevitable. Which brings me to the point of this article — how to stay safe when you’re out and about finishing up those last-minute gifts on your list.

Short of some tae-kwan-doe, here are a few tips I’ve amassed on how to best protect myself when I’m out shopping solo after dark.

  1. Don’t carry so much so that both of your hands are full, and you seem defenseless. Make multiple trips if you have to, or ask for carry-out help.
  2. Don’t use your cell phone while walking to your car because to criminals, you seem distracted. That being said, it’s a good idea to have your cell phone in hand, with the number of a trusted person, or even 911 if you want, at the helm so in the unfortunate event that you do encounter trouble, you can inconspicuously hit “dial” and get help right away.
  3. Practice safety from the start and select a brightly-lit parking space. One that is as close to the store entrance as possible would be best.
  4. Don’t park next to a van that’s on your driver’s side. Too many abductions occur this way. If you notice a van parked next to your driver’s side upon your return, proceed with caution. Consider getting into your vehicle from the passenger side, or, even better, call the store’s security for an escort.
  5. Reiterating the above, don’t be afraid to ask for a security escort. That’s part of their job. (Although, because you just never know, even with security, never let your guard down).
  6. Feign awareness. Even if you’re not the most observant person, or your night vision sucks, don’t let this on. Criminals that have their sights set on you will shy away if they notice that you’re hyper-vigilant. Don’t make it easy for them.
  7. Always keep your key fob in hand so you can press the alarm button on your car if needed.
  8. Lock your doors immediately upon entering your vehicle. If anyone approaches your vehicle to “ask a question,” don’t roll down the window. Talk through it and if they’re asking for help, advise them that you’re calling the proper authorities to come help them.

Now that I’ve come off as a paranoid crazy, I certainly hope I haven’t dissuaded anyone from after-hours shopping – because it can be really fun. I’ve just always been of the “better safe than sorry” mindset. Why not protect yourself when you can? Happy (& safe) shopping!

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