INDIANAPOLIS — The biggest shopping day of the year is Friday.
As thousands of people look for the biggest deals, police are working to make sure someone doesn’t make off with your holiday gifts.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said it plans to up patrols in high-traffic areas around malls and will have officers in plainclothes, patrol cars, on bikes and on foot in an effort to keep everyone safe.
Not only are police preparing, but retailers are, too, as stores in the Mass Ave cultural district gear up for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
“We’re not immune to people looking for an opportunity,” said Kristin Kohn, the owner of Silver in the City.
More shoppers can mean more stealing.
With videocameras catching your every move, Kohn said, she and her employees can roam about the store.
“Certainly, when we recognize certain behaviors, that’s when we really turn up our customer service and make sure we’re right there next to somebody side-by-side rather than across a counter or across the store,” Kohn said. “It’s that type of friendly engagement that I hope would dissuade somebody from wanting to do something that hurts a small business.”
But, Kohn said, her biggest line of defense is greeting naughty with nice.
“Being friendly to them, engaging with them, that you’re not suspicious of them,” Kohn said. “Just changing a perspective, you know, even changing that person’s perspective of ‘Oh, I’m going to take something!’ to ‘Oh, wow, like why would I do this to this place with these nice people?’”
Not only are retailers looking out for thieves, but shoppers themselves, like Natalie Zickmund, who has previous experience in retail, are, too.
“It’s not really the kind of atmosphere you want to have when you’re shopping either, and having to kind of worry about that,” Zickmund said. “But, I think it’s human nature, especially if you’ve worked retail to like watch and you know what to watch for anyway, so it just comes naturally.”
But as shoppers stroll in and out of her store, Kohn is focusing on good, not the bad.
“You can’t constantly be carrying around a fear that people are going to do negative things,” Kohn said. “So, it’s much easier to just expect the best out of people, and I find that that’s a much easier way to live and work and be.”
IMPD released these safety tips ahead of the holiday shopping season
- Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
- Park in a well-lighted space, and be sure to lock the car, close the windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk or cover them with a blanket or rear cover if in an SUV or van.
- Make eye contact with every person in the parking lot on your way to the vehicle. Because a potential thief doesn’t want to be seen, this makes you a less desirable target.
- Have the keys to your vehicle in hand before walking out of the store. This will prevent you from having your attention diverted digging around for keys.
- Stay off your phone while walking. Talking or texting while walking diverts your attention and makes you a more accessible target.
- Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Don’t overburden yourself with packages. Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
- Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If shopping at night, go with a friend or family member.
- Shopping with kids? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
- Request a signature confirmation of delivery. By doing this, the deliverer will have to wait until you’re available or else deliver the package to an at-home neighbor.
- Insure valuable items.
- Encourage trustworthy neighbors to watch for deliveries and agree to secure each other’s packages. This includes being watchful for any stranger who is going onto porches or following delivery trucks.
- If you have an understanding boss, have your packages delivered to your office.
- Track packages online to see exactly when they are enroute to your house. Take advantage of couriers’ text notification services letting you know when a package has been delivered.
- Provide special instructions for where to place the delivered packages. A good place might be on the side or back of the house so that the package is out of sight from the road.
- Don’t post on social media about being out of town or away from home. If you want to share your visit, wait until you return home.
- Find a close friend, relative, or trustworthy neighbor to keep an eye on your property while you’re gone. This includes taking out the trash on trash day, feeding your pets, and picking up mail and newspapers.
- If you have an alarm-monitored home, make sure the contact list is updated. If the alarm is activated and the house needs securing, this is the best way to aid police in locating a responsible person to secure the home.
- Set your alarm if you have one, even during the daytime or if you’re going to be out of the house even for only a short period. Theft happens during all hours.
- If you have a garage door with an automatic opener, disable the emergency release and lock the garage door. The emergency release is an easy way to gain access into your garage.
- Lock all of your doors and windows properly. An unlocked entry is easily accessible.
- Don’t leave gifts under the Christmas tree when away from home for an extended period. This makes for an easy way for a thief to grab up everything.
- Break down all boxes and keep them in the garage or back yard until ready for trash day. This is an extra step but makes the massive amount of boxes manageable. Plus, it makes it harder to distinguish items in the trash pile.
- If the boxes won’t fit in your recycle bin or if you don’t have a garage, load them into your vehicle and take them to a nearby drop-off location for recycling.
- Don’t leave a vehicle unattended or unlocked even if it just for a minute. Have a spare key to your vehicle so you can lock it if going inside while your vehicle warms up. It takes less than one minute to steal a car and all of the contents in it.
- DO NOT leave a vehicle running inside the garage with the garage door shut. The exhaust fumes from the vehicle are far more dangerous than being chilly while waiting for a vehicle to warm up.