The holiday season may very well be the “most wonderful time of the year” for shoppers. Vernon Parish Sheriff Craft advises that it may also be the “most wonderful time of year” for criminals. 
This time of year has a tendency to attract more shopping-related criminal activity because thieves prey upon larger crowds and extended store hours. These factors, combined with the usual distractions related to shopping, create a more favorable environment for petty thieves and other offenders.
“Unfortunately, when shopping, people sometimes have a tendency to become distracted and lose sight of their personal safety, but don’t become so preoccupied with the thrill and excitement of shopping and holiday festivities that you lose your sense of good judgment when it comes to your personal safety,” warns Craft. 
Despite the fact that security measures are being heightened to protect shoppers across the country, Craft is warning Vernon Parish residents to keep their guard up to avoid becoming one of the millions of people victimized by crime each year.
Craft suggests busy shoppers take some safety precautions to reduce their chances of being victimized by criminals who thrive on shoppers at this time of the year.  Those safety precautions include:
Before you leave
There is safety in numbers.  Always try to shop with another person.  A single shopper is the ultimate target for theft.
When going shopping, make sure you tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return home.
Try and avoid taking young children into busy shopping areas, but if it is unavoidable make sure they know what to do if they lose you.  e.g., tell the nearest counter assistant that they are lost and NEVER leave a shop without you.
Agree on a meeting point with older children in case you get separated.
Before going shopping, remove from your wallet or purse any credit cards or other valuable identification that you will not need to reduce risk.   
Make a list of all credit card numbers and the numbers to call in case they are lost or stolen.  This will make the incident a lot easier to report.
While shopping
Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in busy areas where thieves and pickpockets target purses and bags left unattended.
Be aware that wearing headphones will decrease your ability to stay alert to your surroundings.
Be alert to distraction theft.  Watch out for thieves using a “tag team” approach.  While one person distracts you through conversation or by bumping into you, the other is snatching your purse or wallet.
Don’t get loaded down with too many bags.  Plan for your heaviest purchases last.  Try to keep one hand free.
If you are in a store and sense that you are being followed, locate a store employee or security personnel.  Be prepared to give them a complete description of the person you suspect.
If you think you spot a thief or pickpocket, alert the police or security staff. Avoid a confrontation whenever possible.
If carrying cash, keep it in a front pocket. This makes it more difficult for a pickpocket to  remove.
Store car keys in a pant or jacket pocket. If your purse is stolen, you will still be able to drive home.
Always  carry a cell phone for easy access to emergency services.
Parking lot safety
Don’t leave lots of presents on display in a parked car as they could tempt thieves.  Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
Plan ahead. If you know you are going to return to your car after nightfall, park in a well-lit area.  Note your parking place. 
If you feel uneasy returning to your car alone, ask a security guard to walk you to your car.
Have your car keys in your hand to avoid spending unnecessary time unprotected from the  security of your vehicle.
When approaching your car, check around it and in the back seat.
Craft concluded, “Have a safe and joyous holiday season from your Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office.”