The Crime Prevention Website


Christmas shopping! In fact shopping all year round!

I know what you’re thinking....isn’t there anything he can’t write an advice list about!   No!

Each Christmas police forces up and down the country will issue seasonal crime prevention messages about the risks associated with shopping in very busy places. They do it for 'good reason in the season', because the High Streets are rammed and the opportunities for pickpocketing and snatch theft are at their highest.  When I was in the police, each year I’d find myself on duty in London’s West End helping the local police keep the shoppers safe and it was a nightmare!

So, here’s my list of very simple things to think about so that that you can avoid the consequences of losing your stuff at the very time you don’t want to.......

If it’s near Christmas as you read this, have a Very Merry one!

Planning the big shop

  • If driving to the shops park your car in a car park that has been assessed for its security.  Go to the ParkMark website (UK only) to find one near you
  • If it’s going to be really busy you might want to use a bumbag (US 'fanny pack') instead of a handbag and wear a coat with deep pockets. This will enable you to keep your mobile phone (US 'cell phone') in your pocket (one that does up), so that should you lose your bag you can still call someone for help
  • It’s not a good idea to openly wear expensive jewellery and watches in crowded places
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry or split it up so it’s not all in one place to be lost in one go!
  • Using debit and credit cards will help, but be sure to keep them very handy so you’re not having to search through an open handbag (US 'purse') or wallet for five minutes trying to find them
  • Keep a record of the card numbers and emergency telephone numbers in your bag or deep pocket, so you can call the companies to cancel the cards quickly should you lose them.
  • You might want to shop with a friend and look out for each other

Parking the car

  • If you’re not using a ParkMark car park make sure the place where you park will be well lit if you’re returning to the car after dark
  • Never leave anything on view in the car, including coins for the parking meter. Keep valuables and your shopping out of sight in the boot (US 'trunk') and if you’d like further advice about preventing  theft from cars look here
  • Make sure you close all the windows and fully lock the car so that the alarm is set (usually requires two presses of the key’s button)
  • If you hide a key under one of the wheel arches take it with you, because thieves know about this trick
  • Have your keys ready in your hand when you get back to the car so you’re not fumbling with bags and pockets

Handbags and wallets

  • Be aware of very crowded places, which are ideal for pickpockets and bag thieves.
  • Ladies should hold handbags (US 'purses') close and with the catch towards the body. If walking beside a friend or partner you could carry the bag on the side closest to the other person
  • For safety it’s probably better to hold a handbag over your shoulder than around your neck
  • When having that much needed lunchbreak don’t hang your handbag on the back of a chair. Instead, put it on the floor in front of you and put a chair leg over the strap. If there’s a Chelsea clip under the table, use it. Likewise, try to keep your shopping bags in front of you if possible
  • Gentlemen should carry a wallet in a front trouser (US 'pants') or jean pocket next to the crown jewels. Never carry it in a rear pocket or outer jacket pocket

Other things

  • When entering your card's PIN always cover the keypad with your other hand and be aware of who’s around you
  • Take care at cashpoints (ATMs) Follow this advice
  • Think about making expensive purchases last so you can head straight home with them. Some stores might hold onto them so you can pick them up on your way back to the car
  • Think about taking your own large shopping bags (or maybe even a trolley bag) so you can consolidate all the little bags together and reduce the risk of dropping one or having one stolen