Be alert at stores, online and at home
Posted on 12/07/2021
Young woman holds credit card while looking at a laptop. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels. It’s the time of year where shopping for holiday presents is at the top of people’s list of things to do. Take the time to tuck away these crime-stopper reminders to make your holiday safer.

Northville Police Sgt. Andrew Kirby advises people to “Be aware of your surroundings. Park in a well-lit place and shop in pairs if you can – there’s less opportunity for someone to steal from you.”

While downtown Northville is known to be a safe place, crime can happen anywhere. The Northville Police Department steps up its foot patrol in downtown streets during the holidays. Seeing a police presence on the street and in shops can be a crime deterrent and helps to make shoppers and shop owners feel safe.

Shopping-related crimes are more common at large suburban malls where criminals can case a parking lot, looking for victims and find multiple ways to escape.

If you are approached, use good judgment. If you don’t see a gun pointed at you – the biggest deterrent is to scream, yell and run. Consider carrying a whistle or a small canister of pepper spray to use if needed.

In Northville neighborhoods, crime is rare but it does happen. “Some people drive around looking for the opportunity to steal packages that are left in plain view,” Kirby said.

Deliveries to your home, condo or apartment are another point where thieves can fairly easily swipe a box off your front porch. “It’s a huge deal nationally, but not such a big issue in Northville,” Kirby said. He advises that you get to know the local delivery person and ask him or her to place the box in a less obvious location, such as behind a bush near the porch or at the side of your home. Keep track of when packages are being delivered so you know when to expect them.

Credit card fraud also heats up over the holidays. If you are shopping online, know the source of where you are buying the product. Often times people click on an ad on Facebook for a deal and then find the source is a fraud.

“It’s a great sale because it’s often a scam,” said Kirby. Some people get scammed and they don’t even know it. So, it’s important to follow your bank account and credit card statements and keep an eye on credit bureau reports.

He noted that elderly people are more likely than younger age groups to get scammed over the phone. “Their pitch is often made as a plea to help someone. They’re clever.” The caller may tell a sorrowful story about how someone is in trouble and they need help fast. They insist the victim go to a local store and purchase gift cards. When they do – sometimes getting cards worth up to $10,000 – they are asked to read the card numbers to the scammers so they can use them. When that happens, the gift cards no longer hold any value for the victim.

Don’t be drawn in to a gift card scam. If someone calls you with a plea for money – other than registered charities who ask but don’t demand contributions – hang up the phone. It may seem rude but it works.

If you plan to be away for the holidays for any period of time, you have the option to file a “vacation watch” form with the Northville Police Dept. This will permit an officer to check on your home daily by walking around it and making sure the doors and windows are locked, and nothing looks out of place. If any deliveries are made during that time, the police will notify you. (View the form here.)

Another basic but important tip is to lock your vehicle’s doors, especially if you have valuables inside. Make sure valuables are not in plain sight.

Simple precautions such as these can keep crime at bay this holiday season.