GROVE CITY, Ohio (WCMH) — Holiday shopping is back, but are you prepared to protect your things, yourself and your family?
When you come out of a store, arms full of bags, kids, and keys, you could become a prime target for thieves.
Police say you can avoid problems by being attentive.
“You want to watch for those people who are watching you,” said Lt. Jason Stern, with the Grove City Police Department. “If you just bought a [television] and you’re loading it into your car and you turn around and there’s a couple people watching you, and they’ve been watching you the whole time, then you get into your car and now they’re following you to your next destination, maybe it’s time to start rethinking things.”
Stern said it may be a good time to call the police and head to the nearest police station.
But what if you don’t make it out of the parking lot?
Stern recommended that if you are approached by someone demanding your things, the best thing you can do is just hand over whatever they want without question.
The goal there is not to escalate things and get them away from you as quickly as possible, and then call the police.
He also shared tips on how to deal with children who may be out with you shopping.
Stern said to get the kids into the car first, leaving your items aside. Once they are situated, lock them in the car and put your items in the trunk.
Several shoppers echoed other tips Stern provided, like hiding items inside the vehicle if you are going to make multiple stops, and keeping an eye on their surroundings.
Some shoppers even go so far as to back into a spot in case they have to pull away quickly during an emergency.
Nicole Frasher parks with the nose of her vehicle pointed out, but not necessarily for that easy escape. Still, she is hyper-vigilant when moving from buildings to her car, and for good reason.
“Back in my days, going from the bar to the car, I had a gentleman downtown try to get into my car with me,” said Frasher.
Thankfully, a couple of men were nearby and helped her, but that may not always be the case.
She carries her keys at the ready, with her thumb on the panic button, when she walks to her car now as a precaution.
Matt Castin has a different kind of deterrent, and he carries it concealed.
Castin took a concealed carry course a couple of years ago and said he has been trained to deal appropriately with situations that may arise.
Castin hopes he never has to use his weapon, seeing it strictly as a last resort. Staying out of situations that could force him to use it is his preference.
To do that, he, too, keeps a close eye on his surroundings.
“I’m going to basically make sure that I protect my family,” said Castin somberly and without bluster, the heavy weight of responsibility clearly articulated.
Again, avoiding these interactions altogether may be the preferable route, which is easy to do, according to Stern.
“If you get any kind of weird feelings about things, or you see something that seems odd, give us a call,” Stern said. “If you park and notice something that is out of place or even if you don’t notice something and you just want to do it, pull your car around and go up and down a couple of aisles, go to the next store over, go to another parking lot and come back, and just double up your efforts to see if people are following you around.”