Like most of you, I look forward to the holiday season and the opportunity to share good cheer with family and friends. But I’m aware that theft and other crime usually spikes this time of year, which can make the holidays less than happy. The holidays means many of us are shopping, dining out, attending parties and taking part in other activities typical of the holiday season. In addition to keeping safe in the workplace, it is equally important to practice personal safety measures when you are out and about. Here are some useful tips that I hope will make your holidays safer:

• Avoid shopping alone; if you have to shop alone, you can ask security personnel to escort you to your car.

• Carry cash only when you have to, and keep it in your front pocket. Criminals usually observe their victims before taking action. Cash is very attractive to potential thieves.

• Don’t park in dark or dimly lit areas.

• Lock your vehicle — always lock your vehicle — and hide valuable items out of view. Place your packages in the trunk or under the seats in your car.

• Hold purses close to you; do not let them hang, and do not cross them over your neck.

• Be fully aware when you are walking in the open. Walk with confidence. Do not be distracted by headphones or a cellphone until you are safely at your destination.

• Tell family or friends exactly where you are going and check in with them before you leave a shopping mall, restaurant or party. 

• Stay alert and keep on your guard. Do not expose your credit card or ATM pin to those around you. If a credit card is lost or stolen or if unusual charges appear on your statement, contact your credit card company or financial institution immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage a criminal can do to your credit.

The Internet has become the store of choice for many. Remember when shopping online to:

• Look for signs that the business is legitimate.

• Look for signs that the website protects your data.

• Use a filter that warns you of suspicious websites.

• Keep your Web browser updated.

By staying alert, being aware of your surroundings and practicing these personal safety tips, you greatly reduce the chance that you could become a crime victim. Best wishes to all!

Guest Column

Thomas E. Engells is the UTMB chief of police. Under his leadership, the department was awarded Law Enforcement Accreditation, the “gold standard” in American Public Safety.

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