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Madison Police Department urges residents to use caution and avoid distracting situations that could help a thief. CONTRIBUTED

Police urge shoppers to avoid distractions during holidays

MADISON – The holiday season involves extra errands and trips to stores. Children are excited about a break from school, while adults are buying gifts and cooking treats.

Recently, Madison Police Department officers drove around Madison and observed residents in several situations with distractions leading to risky behaviors.

Madison police officers urge shoppers to stay alert in these scenarios:

* Pumping gasoline — At a gas station, Madison police observed a female driver who left the driver’s door open while she went to the passenger side to pump gas. In plain view, they saw her purse and cell phone on the armrest.

“A thief could have easily reached in and taken these items before she could have gotten to the other side of the car,” a police spokesperson said. “Close car doors and take the keys when you pump gas. The key fob also can provide extra protection if you push the panic button should someone try to make a victim out of you.”

* Shopping carts — Walking through a retail store, officers noted a woman with a large, opened purse sitting atop the shopping cart. She briefly stepped away from the cart to select items and place them in the cart. During this brief distraction, a thief would have plenty of time to steal from the wallet or take the purse.

* Distraction method — In the previous scenario, thieves use the distraction method to steal wallets, purses and purchases. Two thieves can work in tandem, with one distracting the shopper by engaging a conversation, knocking over a display or bumping into a shopping cart. This ploy provides enough time for the other thief to take purses or wallets or remove sacked purchases.

* Loading purchases — Be observant. Put the phone down and check 360 degrees around the vehicle before unlocking the doors and trunk. Keep eyes open while placing bags in the trunk and hold your keys so the panic button is close. Decline offers from anyone to help load your packages.

* Nighttime shopping — Supermarket employees will assist shoppers in placing groceries into a vehicle. After dark, accept the employees’ offer or ask them to tag along. “You are more vulnerable with your head in a trunk full of groceries,” according to the police.

* Shopping with children — Anyone who shops with children or a baby should stay alert. Park near a cart corral or use a car pick-up. Shoppers can avoid the situation and shop online.

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