SALEM - Christmas shopping and parking lot thieves are part of the seasonal setup.
Salem Township Constable Dan Valentine said he constantly reminds people "to be aware of their surroundings" when they shop.
"This time of year is very stressful," Valentine said, "be aware of your surroundings. They're out there watching you."
Many suggest leaving purses at home and Valentine said the best way to do it is leave home with one credit card and only the cash you intend on using.
And know which credit card you took and have the card number ready to cancel it if it's lost or stolen.
"Cancel it right away," Valentine said, "before hundreds and hundreds of dollars are racked up."
He also suggested traveling and shopping during the day.
"At night, take a friend," he said, "try to organize your shopping."
Also, if you pay with cash don't "flash a lot of money around ... people can see you," Valentine said.
"Everybody's out and there along with those doing their holiday shoplifting, stealing and scams."
One big thing, along with awareness of the surroundings, is to make the high-value or large item purchases last so they don't sit visible in an unattended car.
"Try to get that high-value item last ... if it's a large package purchase it toward the end ... if someone's following you ..."
Where to park is another issue, especially at night. Park in a well lit area close to the store or other vehicles.
"By other people," Valentine said, "in case you have to yell for help."
Have everything organized, keys readily available, cell phone so you don't fumble around if you need it.
He suggested having store personnel assist you to your vehicle but if you can't do that check the surroundings.
"Are you being followed?" Valentine asked. "Did someone look at you and give you an eerie feeling?"
Sometimes covering up large items in a vehicle is a tip off, and Valentine said thieves might think it's something more expensive than it really is.
If you catch someone at your vehicle, Valentine said it's never worth it to confront someone for what you have in the car.
"It's not worth your safety." he said.
"Hit the panic button on the key fob, holler so other people can hear. There are so many variables. If you're by yourself, retreat. Be aware of your surroundings," Valentine said.