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Be aware and take a few precautions to prevent holiday crime

Security patrol Westfield Shopping Town Southlake Hobart Fridaiy evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

Security patrol the Westfield Shopping Town Southlake in Hobart Fridaiy evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:22AM



It’s the holiday season and you’re busy. And distracted.

Maybe you don’t notice him, but the robber certainly sees you.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said.

“With all these people, not paying attention, under pressure to get the gift lists done, it makes malls and shopping centers laden with victims.”

Becker and other police officials say a few key steps can reduce the chances of getting robbed at a time of year when robbery and burglary crimes increase.

“We always tell people you have to be very aware of your surroundings,” Hammond Chief Brian Miller said.

“I see people wearing headphones, listening to music or looking at their phones,” Miller said.

The chief has prepared a one-page flyer about personal security with tips to avoid being a victim. The first words are “Stay alert, stay alive.”

Miller encouraged shoppers to travel with a friend or in a group, carry just a credit card and identification instead of a bulky purse and avoid wearing furs and expensive jewelry that will draw a criminal’s eye.

Hobart police spokesman Detective Jeremy Ogden said his department and Westfield Southlake Mall have increased police presence.

“Patrol Cmdr. Matt Claussen stepped up patrol all along the U.S. 30 corridor,” Ogden said. “The mall has provided additional security and police as well.”

Both Becker and Miller say that if confronted by an armed robber to never go anywhere with him or her.

“Under no circumstances should you leave the area with your attacker,” Becker said.

The robber will want to get the victim to a more private place, Miller notes.

If attacked, scream, make noise, throw your purse or wallet and run, the chiefs say.

“The criminal would rather have the money than chase you,” Miller said.

Becker said he urges people to think about their response before it happens, because in the rush of confrontation, it’s more difficult to make decisions.

At home, placing beautifully wrapped gifts under a lighted tree in the front picture window entices burglars to watch and wait for the house to be empty.

“If you’re going to Christmas Eve mass, have a neighbor watch your house, or ask someone to stay there while you’re gone,” Miller said.

“And on Christmas morning, when you open all those high-priced electronics, don’t just set the boxes out with your garbage. Tear them up,” Miller said.

Gary police spokeswoman Cpl Gabrielle King said lights, both inside and out, are an excellent deterrent to crime.

“Use timers in the house if you’re will be gone,” she said.

“Don’t let people see that you are carrying a 42-inch flat screen TV into the house,” she said, suggesting using a garage entrance if possible.

Becker and Miller say to act on instincts. If someone seems to walk too closely or be lurking near your home, do something.

“Do not be a good victim,” Becker said. If someone follows you in a parking lot, “Look at him, say ‘hello’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ and keep moving,” By doing that, the attacker knows he’s been seen and could be identified.



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