2017-12-06 / Front Page

How To Stay Safe While Playing Santa

By Liz Goff
It’s that time of year again, when lights twinkle and bells jingle as we brave the winter chill to find those perfect holiday gifts for friends and family.

But remember, behind every “Ho! Ho! Ho!” there’s a thief, a rip-off artist, or a small time thug waiting to fill his stocking by emptying your pockets.

It’s sad, but true. Crime and criminals don’t take a holiday. Crooks love this time of year, when frenzied shoppers hit commercial strips, malls and flea markets looking for something shiny to put under the tree. Which is precisely why Queens police officials beef-up patrols for the holiday season.

Police officials are constantly warning the public that: most criminals are opportunists who take advantage of situations that are presented to them. The key to crime prevention during the holiday season is to remove opportunities for criminals to make you a victim, police said.

Stay aware and use your head when shopping or traveling in holiday crowds. Be alert, don’t be afraid, but look around you occasionally to see what is going on, police said. Remain determined, careful. Travel and shop with companions during the daytime, and especially at night. Remember, there is safety in numbers.

Plan ahead, police said. Know where you are going, know which stores stay open late at night, and do not venture into strange or unfamiliar neighborhoods at night – especially when you are alone.

If you feel uncomfortable in a holiday crowd, or if you sense that you are being watched or followed, seek help immediately, police said. Remember, people have been seriously injured, and worse, trying to fight off thieves and purse-snatchers. Is it worth being injured to protect what you are carrying?

The Crime Prevention Officer at your local precinct can offer you tips on how to stay safe while shopping, along with ways to stay safe at home and at work. Residents in the 114th Precinct are urged to call Crime Prevention Officer Gabriel Tovar at 718-626-9327 for more tips on staying safe while you play Santa.

In this new-millennium age of possible terrorist activity, shoppers should remain aware of their surroundings, police said.

Be aware of threatening or suspicious activity by people around you. If you see a suspicious person or someone acting in a threatening or suspicious manner, call 911; stop a passing police car or alert mall security, police said. DO NOT attempt to confront the person on your own. Watch, listen, take action, and stand away.  Let trained responders handle the situation. Remember, police officers are your first, best defense against crime and criminals.

Beware of scams and scam artists. Today’s scam artists have perfected the act of the scam, police said. They often work in teams to swindle you out of your cash or plastic, stealing away your holiday. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Cybershoppers are urged to remain cautious and alert when shopping online for holiday gifts, especially on “Cyber Monday,” when millions of people jump online to find the best holiday buys, police said. “Make sure you are buying gifts from a well known retailer, not from a thief pretending to be legitimate to obtain your personal information.”

NYPD officials added Identity Theft several years ago to their annual “beware” list for holiday shoppers. Police are warning the public to beware thieves who skim your personal information from credit and debit cards – wreaking havoc that can take years to repair.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD officials are urging consumers to remain alert when using ATM machines in local shops, convenience stores and shopping malls where the machines are not regularly monitored – locations where thieve can easily install skimmers that steal your personal information. It takes thieves less than 90 seconds to install the machines that can record PIN numbers, police said.

Police are also reminding consumers to retrieve all carbons and receipts generated by debit or credit card purchases. Thieves cab use receipts and/or carbons to obtain personal information, police said. Thieves can make purchases with the information, or use it to steal your identity.

For more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of Identity Theft, call the Crime Prevention Officer at your local precinct or detectives at the Queens District Attorney’s Economic Crime Unit.

It isn’t hard, getting caught-up in the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, police said. But remember, lurking behind those twinkling lights and brightly colored holiday displays lies a seasonal scourge: pickpockets, thieves, con artists and scam-artists just waiting to hustle you out of your holiday, police said.

Police at local precincts beef-up patrols during the holiday season along commercial strips like Steinway Street, Broadway, 30th Avenue, Ditmars Boulevard and along the “Shops on 48th Street to help shoppers feel safe.

Captain Osvaldo Nunez, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, is urging local shoppers to stay alert and stay on guard to thwart thieves and con artists who might try to steal your holidays. “Have a happy and safe holiday season,” Nunez said.

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