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Cops warn: keep eye on bags

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You may spend the holidays roasting chestnuts by an open fire. Or cruising on a one horse open sleigh. But chances are, you’ll also spend December shopping.

At the 45th Precinct’s community meeting Thursday, December 4, Captain Roumeliotis issued bustling Bronxites a judicious reminder. Be careful.

“It’s easy to get caught up in shopping,” Roumeliotis said. “It’s easy to let your guard down. Just don’t.”

Preoccupied shoppers fall prey to pickpockets and con artists every winter, but some experts worry that this year’s financial crisis could amplify the holiday effect – less money to spend, more incentive to steal. According to Roumeliotis, the 45th and other Bronx precincts will increase foot patrols ahead of the holidays. Shopping hubs like Bay Plaza, Westchester Square and Crosby Avenue will benefit.

As of October, shoplifting was already on the rise, according to the National Retail Federation. Women are targeted more than men.

“When the stores are packed, keep your purse close,” said Roumeliotis. “Otherwise, someone will reach in.”

Holiday thieves aim for unattended shopping carts and parked cars.

“A lot of us throw stuff in the car between stores,” the police captain said. “But someone could be watching you. There are people who do this for a living.”

On December 4, Roumeliotis mentioned a Queens man nabbed for car thefts in Coop City. Pre-arrest, the crook averaged nearly 20 break-ins each night.

“If you have a GPS unit in your car, hide the device and wipe its windshield suction mark away,” Roumeliotis said.

Shoppers tend to carry more cash during the holidays.

Beyond shoplifting and pick pocketing, the holidays further fraud and identity theft.

Stolen credit cards slip past harried cashiers. Seasonal workers make off with wares. Consumers turn careless. After all – everyone has a vacation to plan, a year-end report to file or a present to purchase.

Then there’s the crowd factor. A Nassau County Wal-Mart temp was trampled to death on Black Friday.

Shop during daylight hours if possible, cops say. If you need to go at night, bring a friend. Dress casually; avoid wearing expensive jewelry. Try not to pack cash. When you do, use your front pockets.

Don’t overload yourself with bags. Beware of strangers. Order packages to arrive when you’re home. And finally, stay vigilant.

The 45th Precinct will also increase vehicular patrols for the holiday season, a police representative said.

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