The high street might have struggled in 2018 but one thing is certain – Sheffield city centre will still be crammed with shoppers this month as people rush to find Christmas gifts and enjoy the festive market stalls.
It’s a hectic time for businesses and shoppers alike. Staff have to deal with hordes of customers, people are laden down with bags filled with their purchases and must deal with demanding families and children as they scour the stores.
So attention can all too easily be diverted – which, sadly, means it is a season when criminals can have a field day.
Pickpocketing and bag thefts may seem like low-level offences but they are hugely upsetting for victims. If anyone hasn’t been targeted, they're lucky. Anyone who has will fully appreciate the anguish of suddenly realising one of their possessions – be it a bag, phone, purse or bank card – has been made off with, presumably never to be seen again.
Crooks can exploit the busy atmosphere by ‘bumping into’ people in crowded places, and unattended items can be swiped all too easily.
It is, of course, meant to be the season of goodwill but not everyone shares this outlook. Last year it was reported that crimes committed over Christmas had soared; between 2014 and 2016, the number of thefts rose from 11,804 to 15,148 nationally, a particularly bleak figure.
The police do all they can to catch the culprits, but such cases are tricky to solve and their resources are finite.
So one of the best tactics is to take as much preventative action as possible to make sure thieves are deterred from striking in the first place.
A list of very useful measures has been provided on this page by the owners of The Moor, which is likely to see huge crowds of shoppers before December 25 and afterwards when the sales get under way.
However, the final tip stands out – to be vigilant, and help ‘those who need it’. Essentially, we can all do our bit by looking out for each other. If we see something unusual, or a situation where something could quickly go very wrong, we just need to raise it or offer a helping hand.
Then everyone can get their Christmas shopping done with the minimum of stress and foil the efforts of those who would seek to spoil people's happiness.
The Moor and South Yorkshire Police’s Safe Shopping guide:
- Use a purse that’s difficult to open. One that zips or snaps shut is best, and keep it closed and return cards to your purse or wallet quickly.
- Use a money belt if carrying a significant quantity of cash otherwise a safe tactic is to conceal your wallet in a buttoned or zipped pocket where it doesn’t bulge.
- Be prepared with plenty of bags and keep these with you at all times - being most vigilant when stopping for a coffee or something to eat. Don’t hang all those precious Christmas shopping bags or coats with valuables in them on the back of a chair, or put any bags out of sight on the floor.
- Be careful not to leave mobile phones, wallets are purses on tables or counters.
- Carry bags in front of you or diagonally across your chest.
- If you’re using a shopping trolley keep it with you at all times and similarly don’t leave bags on the back of a pushchair unattended.
- When at an ATM machines make sure you are not distracted and ensure you put your cash away as soon as possible.
- Be aware of your bag at all times even if it is a zip up bag – nimble fingers can unzip bags in crowds.
- As an added insurance - keep a list separate from your wallet and phone, of contact numbers of family in case your phone is stolen and as a general precaution keep a photocopy of your travel cards, passport, credit cards and any other documents that would be impossible or inconvenient to replace if stolen.
- Support your fellow shoppers by being vigilant and by helping those who need it. Ultimately trust your instincts.
Call 101 for non-emergencies and 999 for emergencies.