My Town: 10 ways to protect yourself while shopping | Crime
KENTWOOD, Mich.—As the busiest shopping day of the year approaches, police are offering 10 ways to protect yourself and your vehicle from thieves.
Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.) works with Michigan law enforcement agencies to track down suspected car thieves and those suspected of auto theft-related insurance fraud. Shoppers are encouraged to follow these tips:
- Be alert - Always be aware of your surroundings. As you approach your vehicle, avoid talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages.
- Parking - If you can, avoid shopping alone after dark. But if you must, park in a well-lit area with pedestrian traffic or in a lot with an attendant. If possible, avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area, such as dumpsters, bushes and large vans or trucks. Also avoid parking next to cars with tinted windows that you cannot see through.
- Remember where your car is parked - Walk directly to your car and do not spend unnecessary time wandering around the parking lot. Walk confidently and with purpose.
- Always ask - If you’re alone and don’t feel comfortable walking to your car, don’t hesitate to ask retail security personnel for an escort.
- Place items in trunk - If you must leave something in your vehicle, lock it in the trunk or place items out of sight. Do not leave packages on the seat of your car.
- Move your car - Move to another area of the parking lot if you return to your car in the middle of a shopping trip, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter a thief who may have been watching you unload your purchases.
- Use common sense - Even if you are just going into a store for a quick errand, never leave your car unlocked or your vehicle running unattended.
- Keep passengers safe - Criminals are not timid about approaching people in their driveways. Take children and the elderly into the house first, then immediately unload all purchases from your car. Never leave vulnerable loved ones alone in a vehicle, even if you will only be gone “for a minute.”
- Don’t argue – If a carjacker wants your vehicle, let him have it. A vehicle isn’t worth your life. According to Terri Miller, executive director of H.E.A.T., most carjackings involve a weapon. So don’t resist or argue, instead get a good look at the carjacker and what he or she is wearing.
- Call the police immediately - If you witness an auto theft or carjacking, call 911 immediately. After you have informed local law enforcement, call H.E.A.T.’s 24/7 confidential tip reward line (1-800-242-HEAT) if you have any information regarding auto theft, insurance fraud or carjackings.
H.E.A.T. offers a reward of up to $1,000 for tips that lead to the arrest of a suspected car thief or insurance fraud suspect. The organization gives up to $2,000 for tips that lead to carjacking suspects, and $10,000 for tips that lead to arrests and trials of suspected theft ring or chop shop operators. The tip line is monitored by Michigan State Police and funded by state auto insurance companies.