Christmas shoppers beware, robbery numbers on the rise

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - November and December brings out some of the best in people, but it also brings out the worst. Criminals are lurking in the dark to take advantage of you. Police are asking that you be extra careful this year while you're doing your holiday shopping.

Robberies are up by 30 percent this year compared to last November. "Robbery is slightly up for East Baton Rouge Parish," says East Baton Rouge Sheriff's spokesperson Casey Hicks. "We had 22 incidents of robbery in November 2011 and 29 in November 2012." It's a statistic that can be lowered if you take extra steps to ensure your personal safety.

Baton Rouge Police Lieutenant Don Kelly urges shoppers to be diligent when they are moving from store to store. "Those criminals are a lot of times like the lions in the jungle, they're watching the herd and they're looking for the weak one," Kelly says. "They're looking for the one that's not paying attention."

Baton Rouge shopper Patsy Casey admits she's not as mindful about her surroundings as she should be. "I'm a very trusting soul, and no I don't think about it," says Casey. "Now at night it would, but in broad daylight I just assume that the bad people are gone."

Eugena Shapiro is a mother of three who believes making these assumptions about safety is not an option when it comes to protecting her family. She has taken defense classes and rarely goes out at night anymore. "Especially if I'm with my children, I sometimes look under my car if I see somebody around I might pay [more] attention to my surroundings," Shapiro states.

Baton Rouge police say it only takes a second to get distracted and make yourself vulnerable to an attack. "It's usually over before you even realize what's happened," Kelly insists. "It's kind of a rush attack where someone just runs up, hits you and grabs you, then grabs your stuff, and by the time you have your senses about you it's over with."

Kelly advises shoppers to park their cars in a lighted area and to not leave your valuables in plain view.

Other advice would be to never leave the engine running in your absence, even for just a minute. Take all of your keys with you. Do not hide a set anywhere in your vehicle.

Keep packages and other valuables, including cell phones and GPS devices out of public view and preferably locked in the trunk.

Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion.

Do not carry large amounts of cash. If possible, pay for purchases with check or credit/debit card.

Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

If someone approaches you or scares you, SIT DOWN! This might scare off your attacker, and someone is more likely to come to your aid.

With 21 days to go until Christmas, stay safe!

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