Officials offer tips for navigating Black Friday

Posted: November 20, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — It’s that time of year again — when big sales bring big crowds. And local authorities are warning residents who participate in Black Friday shopping to be on guard.

“It’s a day where a lot of people are making a lot of purchases, they have a lot of cash on hand and valuable items in tow,” Capt. Allen Sibert of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said of the day after Thanksgiving. “Those elements combined are very appealing to criminals.”

Winchester Police Department spokesperson Lauren Cummings said Monday that it’s a day that brings out thieves, pickpockets and others who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.

“The Winchester Police Department will have extra patrols out as shoppers head to the stores Thanksgiving night and on Black Friday,” she said in a media release.

Cummings and Sibert offered several tips to bargain-hungry shoppers in the area.

“Do not leave anything in a vehicle that you do not want stolen,” Sibert warned. “If possible, take your merchandise to your residence or a nearby friend’s residence.”

If newly bought items must remain in a vehicle, Sibert and Cummings stressed that they should be locked in the trunk and out of plain view of potential thieves.

Cummings added that shoppers should be aware of their surroundings, lock their cars and shop with a friend or group.

She also advised women to leave their purses at home to avoid purse snatchers and pickpockets, and to carry identification and credit cards in a front pocket.

“If giving up a purse is out of the question, choose one with a long strap that can be worn over your head and [be] covered with a jacket for safety,” she said.

Cummings said that with the holiday rush comes an increase in the number of people out and about.

“Be extra cautious when driving through parking lots and be aware of people who are walking to and from stores,” she said.

Sibert said shoppers aren’t the only ones who fall victim to Black Friday crime.

He said the county typically sees a lot of shoplifting during the end of Thanksgiving week and encouraged businesses to be vigilant.

“Make sure to have a ton of employees on the floor,” he said. “Keep track of individuals going in and out of your business as much as possible.”

He added that a good camera system and loss-prevention team can make a difference.

All residents are encouraged by authorities to report any suspicious activity or people by calling the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office at 540-662-6162 or the Winchester Police Department at 540-662-4131.

“Have fun, find good deals, protect your investments and remember it’s still about family, no matter what,” Sibert added of the holiday.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com