One of the most effective resources shoppers and travelers have to make their holiday season safe is themselves. Being cautious, staying alert and planning ahead are essential for a happy and safe holiday, according to Radford University Criminal Justice Professor and former police officer Tod Burke.
“Putting your purchases in the trunk is certainly a lot better than putting them in view in the back seat,” Burke says. “Be smart. If you are going out alone, try to make sure you are parking in a well-lit, crowded area. Let someone know where you’re going but don’t put too much information out there.”
Social networking is a stalker’s dream, Burke says. Posting your whereabouts and what you’ll be doing is not wise. Text-messaging while walking or sitting in your car – or elsewhere – creates additional problems. “If you’re texting, you’re being distracted. It can cause a thief to take advantage of you while you’re not paying attention,” he adds.
• Put purchases in the trunk rather than in view in the back seat.
• Make sure you are parking in a well-lit, crowded area.
• Avoid text-messaging while walking or sitting in your car. It’s a distraction.
• Avoid posting your whereabouts on social networking sites but let a family member know where you’re going.
Traveling During the Holidays
Planning for traffic delays and mapping out alternative routes is good but often times taking an alternate route is not wise. Burke says the shortest route can sometimes be the worst route. He urges travelers to learn more about the neighborhoods they will be driving through.
While on the road, there is always the possibility of a health emergency. “Depending on the location, it may be quicker for you to drive on to the hospital instead of calling the police or rescue squad. It depends on the emergency, the location and your first aid skills. Know your limitations,” Burke says.
Children can also play a vital role in travel safety and while they are helping, they’re also learning and entertaining themselves.
“While you’re driving and familiarizing yourself with a travel route, ask children to observe things around them,” Burke suggests. “What’s the location? What is the last street sign they noticed? Did they notice a hospital sign?”
He also advises letting children gently know that being loud can be a distraction. “Plan activities for them in the car and plan on making frequent stops,” he says.
While international travelers should adhere to many of the same guidelines, they also may be more at risk than those traveling domestically.
“Pick-pocketing and purse-snatching happens more commonly out of the country. Reasons international travelers are often targeted include language barriers, the culture and bad guys know that you tend to carry more money. They also know the likelihood of you coming back to testify is rare,” Burke says. “Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket. If you do, keep a small amount of money. If you are in a street robbery, they are going to want something, and it is better for your safety if you have something to offer them.”
Travelers have heard it said, “Don’t look like a tourist.” Burke says when robbers see someone with a map and a camera, it makes the traveler much more susceptible to crime. It’s okay to ask questions, he says, but also know that questions make people more aware that you are a tourist.
Employing common sense tactics can be invaluable when traveling abroad. Don’t carry a lot of jewelry, keep track of passports, and back up or copy all important documents. And again, avoid posting travel information on social networking sites. “Knowing what hotel travelers are staying in and knowing their home is vacant is also a burglar’s dream. There have been a lot of thefts because too much information was posted online. Even avoid posting that you have siblings. Someone could use that information,” Burke says, adding that this could lead to con artists using the information to scam money from family members.
Burke insists, however, the risks should not deter individuals from their holiday travel plans.
“It’s the process, not the destination, that may make the trip fun,” Burke says. “With a little planning and appropriate precautions, travelers can enjoy the ride as well as the destination.”
• Learn more about the neighborhoods you will be driving through.
• Prepare for a health emergency that could happen while on the road.
• Ask children to observe things around them.
• Let children gently know that being loud can be a distraction.
• Don’t wear a lot of jewelry or carry expensive cameras.
• Keep track of passports, and back up or copy all important documents.
• Avoid posting travel information on social networking sites.