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Albany police, MCLB Albany safety teams urge 'caution' for holiday shoppers

By Verda L. Parker | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | December 4, 2015

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The holidays are approaching and with the expected shopping frenzies around the city, local law enforcement officials partner with Marine Corps Police Department officers and other personnel aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany to offer some security tips when venturing out to local stores and malls over the next few weeks.

With the potential increase in risks to persons and property during the holiday season, Sgt. William Henry, sergeant, Crime Prevention Unit, City of Albany Police Department, cautioned shoppers to, among other things, “pay attention to your surroundings.”

“One of the biggest things for us this time of year is usually crimes of opportunity,” Henry said. “Auto entry is one of the main criminal activities we’re called on around this time; credit card fraud is another.

“We caution folks to lock their vehicles,” he continued. “Clean out all of their valuables, including purses, book bags and packages. If they’ve purchased large items, like TVs, it’s best to just go ahead and take them home, rather than leave them in their cars.

“I also want to stress this, particularly to ladies,” Henry added, “Use the buddy system when going out to shop; always park in well-lit areas; avoid parking in dark places, such as behind secluded buildings.

“Keep purses clipped or strapped onto shopping carts or close to your body whenever possible,” he suggested. “It makes it more difficult to get it snatched by criminals.”

Lt. Bobby Henderson, assistant operations officer, MCPD, MCLB Albany, expressed similar safety tips to holiday shoppers.

“(Statistically speaking,) I feel the Christmas season is (a time) when thieves take more advantage of shoppers and even attempt more home invasions,” Henderson said.

“Try not to leave high value items in your vehicle unattended for a long time,” he stressed. “Be mindful of credit card fraud and thieves attempting to steal (your personal identification numbers) and credit card information.

“Be aware of your surroundings, especially when shopping in places you’re not familiar,” he explained.

“Don't flash money or credit cards; keep them in a secure location to avoid pick-pocketing,” Henderson cautioned. “Try to shop in pairs or as a group; the more people you are with acts more as a deterrent for criminals.”

There are a number of perks eligible patrons may rush to take advantage of over the next few weeks at the Marine Corps Exchange, but Sheila Andrews, store manager, Marine Corps Community Services, MCLB Albany, admitted she is not overly concerned for the safety of on-base shoppers. She did, however, issue words of caution for off-base holiday shopping.

“Don’t do it alone,” Andrews urged. “Here, on base you’re safe, but out in town, it’s a different story.

“Make sure to always shop with a buddy,” she emphasized. “That way, they can watch your back and you can watch theirs.”

In efforts to bring awareness to the importance of all safety concerns and hazards, Juan Escovar, safety specialist, Risk Management, MCLB Albany, spoke about not only shopping strategies around the city but also safety in and around the home during the holidays.

“My usual strategy is to buy as many items as I need and take them home,” Escovar said. “The alternative is that my wife and I go shopping together. If we buy some things, we take them to the car and if we need more, I stay in the vehicle with the items, while she finishes shopping. When she’s done, I try to meet her at the entrance.

“My best advice is to try to team up to go shopping,” he explained. “Try to park closer to the store and be sure to put the items in the trunk; use a blanket or something else to cover them in the back if there is no trunk.”

“There are several things we can do in the home to ensure safety for us as well as our guests around the holidays,” Escovar added. “For example, use lights that are (Underwriters Laboratory) approved; put water in a container (at the base) of live trees to keep them from drying out; don’t get distracted while cooking and don’t leave food unattended on the stove.

 “Wherever there is going to be an open flame like a fireplace or candles, the rule is to keep (everything and everyone) a minimum of three feet away from the flames and never leave space heaters unattended,” he continued.

“Testing fire alarms and making sure guests know exactly where (emergency) exits are located in your home is also very important,” Escovar concluded.

Escovar said he credits the National Safety Council’s 2015 Winter publication as the source of much of the information he shared.
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