Christmas cards urge careful shopping

WESTFIELD – As the holiday season progresses at a more hectic pace, shoppers may overlook simple precautions they know well, and fail to safeguard purses and purchases.  So, the Westfield police department is using a Christmas card as a gentle reminder.
Westfield Police Chief John Camerota said this week that, although city detectives spend time in stores and parking lots all year watching for criminals who prey on shoppers, the plainclothes officers try to find extra time to work in those areas at Christmas time.  That’s when the number of shoppers explodes – as do the number of thieves watching for a purse left unattended in a shopping cart, or a purchase left in plain view in unlocked cars in the parking lots.
Some years ago, Det. Sgt. Ray Manos came up with a low-key reminder for shoppers and prepared a stack of Christmas cards to pass out to shoppers who may have relaxed their vigilance.
The cover of the card shows a group of Santas in a police lineup who are pointing accusingly at each other.
Inside the card reads “Don’t spend your holiday trying to find the ‘bad Santa’. Keep your pocket-book close to you while shopping and keep your gifts hidden in your locked car” and goes on to wish “Happy Holidays from the Westfield Police Department!”
Manos said that detectives who see a shopper who has wandered away from a shopping cart which contains a purse will go stand quietly right next to the cart until the shopper notices there is a person next to her cart.
Then, Manos said, the detective will identify himself or herself, point out that, if he or she had been “a bad guy,” the shopper’s wallet would have been gone, and give the shopper one of the Santa cards as a more lasting reminder to be careful.
Similarly, detectives keeping an eye on parking lots try to watch for shoppers who do not lock their cars or who leave valuable items in plain view, Manos said.  Those shoppers are also approached with a warning and given a card to help them remember.
Camerota said the benefit of the program is twofold. “It’s an enforcement effort and it’s and educational effort” he said.
“Some people get so wrapped up in their shopping they forget to be careful” Manos said and added “a friendly reminder is greatly appreciated.”

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