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Deputies Warn Against Distracted Shopping

8:43 PM, Dec 4, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The holiday shopping season is in full swing and shoppers are out across the Midlands buying gifts for friends and loved ones, but the Richland County Sheriff's Department wants to warn you about how thieves are targeting shoppers.

Sarah Roth says she is more cautious shopping around the holidays.

"I drive an SUV and every thing's viable in my car so when I shop and make purchases I try to pretty much head home," said Roth,

That feeling, however, does not apply to everyone and Lt. Rafael Gonzalez with the Richland County Sheriff's Department says criminals use this time to target others.

A few deputies set up a reenactment to show how some criminals are attacking shoppers as they walk in a parking lot. Someone pulls a vehicle close to the victim, grabs their purse and speeds away. Gonzalez says distracted shoppers are easily hit.

"A lot of the folks that are being targeted are on phones, not really paying attention to their surroundings so you need to be aware of what you're doing where you're going," he said.

Deputies say this type of purse snatching happened earlier this year at a Bi-Lo off Broad River Road, but Gonzalez says that is not the only thing shoppers should look out for. He warns against leaving purses in your car and not locking your doors as well.

"They're literally sliding up next to your vehicle and opening the door if you leave it open and they're just taking your purse or your valuables right out of there, and that's all they're taking that one item. So it's called sliding because that person almost looks like they're sliding right next to the car, taking that item and driving away," he said.

Gonzalez says if you are planning to shop, only take the one card or amount of money that you need and stay alert.

"I think we all need to be cautious year round, not just over the holidays but you certainly hate to see little children's Christmas spoiled," said Roth.

If you do become the victim of a crime, the Richland County Sheriff's Department says you should try to remain calm. They also say and you should give the thief whatever they want because it is not worth your life. 

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