Christmas shopping safely

Crime reduction officer Andy Foster from South Yorkshire Police has provided our readers with some useful advice about safety while out and about, particularly when shopping for Christmas.

Bag theft is a growing problem in the UK with the most common location for handbag theft being from a pub. Restaurants, shops, cafes, offices and nightclubs are other frequent venues targeted by bag thieves.

Theft happens in crowded places and personal possessions left unattended and unsecured – even for a moment – are at risk.

If out shopping keep your handbag zipped up, if you stop for a coffee or sandwich do not leave your handbag slung over a chair or unattended. When in supermarkets don’t leave your handbag in your shopping trolley, even a few seconds as the moment spent looking at items on shelving can be enough for a sneak thief to steal it.

You may wish to consider fitting a purse bell, these are a very simple but effective way to stop and deter thieves. These are especially popular for use in busy shopping areas or whilst using public transport when you are most likely to have your valuables stolen.

They are two little bells which jingle when your purse is being moved. If you were not looking and someone tried to take your purse, the bells will jingle and the thief will be caught red handed. These only cost a few pounds and may prevent you becoming a victim of a pick pocket.

Examples of this and other purse theft crime prevention products can be found on the following website: or telephone 01978 855054

Some further tips can be found below:

  • Where possible, go out with a friend or family member and stick to busy, well-lit streets
  • Avoid short cuts through alleys, parks or wasteland – particularly in areas you are not familiar with
  • Carry your bag close to your body, not dangling by the straps
  • Put your purse or wallet in a deep inside coat or trouser pocket – a money belt might be appropriate
  • Always be aware of where your purse or wallet is – don’t leave it on view on a counter or on top of your shopping bag or unattended in your shopping trolley
  • Don’t carry credit cards or large amounts of cash if you don’t need to or keep large sums of money in your house. £200 is ample to deal with any emergency you may encounter
  • Arrange for your benefits and other regular payments paid directly into your bank account
  • Consider carrying a mobile phone but use if discreetly and be aware of your surroundings when using it
  • If using a cash machine try and use it during the day, those located in banks or building societies are safer to use. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable using a particular cash machine cancel your transaction and walk away and never write your pin number down

Vehicle Safety:

  • Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, keep your car doors locked at all times
  • If using public car parks choose one that is Park Mark registered, these show they have passed certain security checks and are safe to use
  • Park near the entrance if you can and do not leave any valuable on sight, even a few loose coins or clothing can attract the attending of an opportunist thief
  • Never leave any Christmas presents on view in your vehicle
  • Never use your car engine to defrost your frozen windscreen, leaving your car running and unattended may invalidate your car insurance
  • When refuelling at the petrol station remember to remove your car keys when going to pay for your fuel

Public Transport:

  • Sit close to the driver or near the exit when travelling by train, tram or bus
  • If another passenger makes you uneasy, trust your instincts and change seats, or even get off and catch the next bus
  • Most public transport has excellent CCTV fitted; if you have been involved in an incident speak to the driver or transport company and request to view any CCTV which may have captured it.

Stay safe during the festive season and make sure you enjoy your shopping trips safely!