While shoppers watch their clocks

By Liz Dobson

Counting down to December 25? We unwrap 20 ways to beat crims at Christmas

Employ carpark wisdom when you're shopping: don't unlock the car until you can touch the door.
Employ carpark wisdom when you're shopping: don't unlock the car until you can touch the door.

Before you have a chance to say, "ho, ho, ho" you could be saying, "no, no, no" if you fail to take extra care of your vehicle and its contents during the buildup to Christmas.

As shopping mall carparks become increasingly crowded, thieves are on the prowl.

You don't want to return to your vehicle - when you eventually find it in the maze of the mall carpark - to find it has been broken into and your gifts stolen. Or worse, your car has gone altogether.

So here are simple tips on keeping your car and goodies safe this season:

1 Never leave your house keys in the car.

2 Don't leave mail with your home address in your car.

3 Never leave your keys and mail together - that's inviting a burglar into your home.

4 Keep Christmas shopping out of sight in the car. Put it in the boot or under the rear cover in your SUV.

This will reduce the likelihood of someone stealing your gifts - and is particularly important for electronic items.

5 When putting gifts in your car, be aware of people watching you.

6 If you do a late-night desperate shopping spree, be careful where you park your car. Avoid dark corners of the carpark. Instead (and yes, you may have to circle for what seems like hours to do so), park near the mall entrance or in a lit area with lots of foot traffic.

7 Yes, it may be hot and you may be in the shops for hours finding that perfect gift, but leave the dog at home so can always keep your car windows up and doors locked while it's parked. You don't want to give a thief a car for a pressie!

8 Check the vehicles you park next to. If they have tinted windows it is probably not a good idea to park beside them - you can't tell if someone's lurking inside.

9 Buying expensive electronic gifts? Ask a shop assistant to walk you to your car. Or drive to the shop's loading dock and have your purchases put in your car. You don't want to be mugged going to your car. Yes, I've done both - you only have to ask and some large stores recommend it. Just don't ask at 5pm on Christmas Eve.

10 If you needed a satnav system to guide you to the shops, hide it in the glovebox or under a seat. Again, don't give a thief a satnav system for Christmas.

11 Women: be careful leaving your car once you reach the mall - bag- snatching peaks around this time, because thieves know you'll have cash on you.

12 Do wear your handbag across your body, so crims can't grab it when you return to your car with your hands full of gifts.

13 When returning to your car at night, always get out your keys before you leave the shops. Fumbling in your bag or pocket - especially with your arms laden with presents - makes you an easy target for a thief. Unlock the car only when you are beside it.

14 If you're shopping alone at night, leave the mall with other shoppers. There's safety in numbers.

15 Multistorey carparks are mazes so note which level your car is on when you park. I recommend writing the parking space/level on your carpark ticket or your hand.

16 When unloading a shopping trolley into your car boot, first place your handbag in the car, and lock the car. Purses left in trolleys are easy meat for thieves.

17 If you see someone suspicious when approaching your vehicle, return to the building and wait for them to leave.

18 When returning to your car at night, before you get in check the seats for anyone who may be hiding.

19 Lock doors immediately after entering your vehicle. Hide your handbag under a seat and as you queue to leave the carpark, wind down only your driver side window a few centimetres at the pay window.

You don't want a thief to walk past your idling car and grab your bag or shopping from the passenger seats.

20 You had to ask? It goes without saying, but I will still say it. Don't drink and drive.

- NZ Herald

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