WOOD COUNTY, OH (Toledo News Now) – As the holiday season commences, shoppers should take extra care to keep valuables and purchases safe from thieves.
According to Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, the first thing shoppers should do when reaching their destination is look for a well-lit area to park their car.
"You have to think to yourself as a burglar or thief," Wasylyshyn said. "They don't like being seen…they don't like light."
Valuables should never be left in the vehicle. GPS devices, laptops, purses and other valuables should be out of sight so as not to tempt thieves to break the windows.
When returning to a vehicle, Wasylyshyn advised shoppers to keep their key in their hand to avoid fumbling for it in front of the car. Thieves may target shoppers that appear flustered or unprepared.
And if a situation appears to be unsafe, Wasylyshyn said it's best to not walk to a car alone.
"Get back in the store, or stay in the store, because it's very likely that your subconscious picked up on something that just isn't right," he said. "Someone watching you, or someone in a car nearby. Go back in and ask the store security to escort you to the car, or an employee…there's safety in numbers."
Holiday shopper Jennifer Zembol said she never shops alone at this time of year.
"She doesn't carry a purse, [either,]" Kevin Zembol, Jennifer's husband, said. "I carry all the money in my front pocket so we can't get pick-pocketed. And then a lot of times we just carry plastic so [there's] easy cancellation if something gets stolen."
Another important tip is to be cautious of two people sitting in a car. Wasylyshyn said it's common to see one person waiting in the car for their spouse, but two people waiting in a car is unlikely and could mean they are working as a team to steal from shoppers.