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Holiday shopping, theft season begins Friday
Statesboro Police Det. Sgt. Winskey offers shoppers safety, precaution tips to safeguard gifts
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     Friday will be the largest shopping day of the year —Black Friday — and heralds the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
    It is also the beginning of the biggest thieving season, said Statesboro Police Det. Sgt. James Winskey.
    While shoppers search for the best bargains, criminals search for the easiest targets. That means unlocked doors — either cars or homes —  and careless buyers who  leave purses in shopping carts and purchases in plain view of anyone who passes their vehicles.
    The holidays are a time of joy for many, and the satisfaction of having crossed everyone off your shopping list can swiftly turn to chagrin when those gifts are stolen. Winskey said being careful and taking the time to make yourself less vulnerable will pay off in the long run.
    "Be vigilant in your surroundings," he advised. That means pay attention to the man sitting in a truck parked beside you. If he appears suspicious, move to another parking spot, or at least, memorize his description and what he is driving.
    "Keep your purse and valuables close to you," Winskey said. Leaving your purse in the shopping cart while you unlock your car or load groceries is a bad idea, because it leaves the purse in a position where it could easily be grabbed.
    And if you are shopping at several stores, place the items you have already bought in your trunk, he said. "Don't leave them in plain sight." If the trunk is not an option, cover your purchases in the floorboard. And again, lock those doors.
    Winskey said 90 percent of all entering auto cases are the result of valuable left inside the car and the door left unlocked. It doesn't take long, he said, referring to a case over the past weekend where a woman left her purse in her car to walk into a South Main Street business for just five minutes. When she returned, her purse was gone, he said.
    It's also a good idea to park in a well-lighted area, and shop with a friend if possible. And never flash a lot of cash, he said. People looking for someone to rob pay attention to things like whether a potential target has a lot of cash, is alone and seems preoccupied or unaware of surroundings, he said. "Just be careful."
    It's not only the seasonal holidays that bring the increase in crime, Winskey said. "The worse the economy gets, the worse (crime) gets," he said.
    Wal-Mart has hired off-duty policemen as security, and Statesboro Police will be spending  more time patrolling parking lots and other areas, including the residential areas near the Georgia Southern University campus, he said.  Students leaving their apartments during the holidays to go home usually "don't take their flat screen TVs, their laptops" and other valuables, and thieves know this, he said. Taking valuables with you when you visit home during the holidays can help reduce the risk of being the victim of a burglary, he said.

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