LIVONIA, Mich., Nov. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Preparation for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season has begun, and retailers and consumers are making their to-do lists. When it's time to step out and tackle all of the season's errands, it's easy to become distracted and the target of an auto related-crime.
According to auto theft experts, November and December are the most active months for auto theft crimes. Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.) urges shoppers to add a few simple safety tips to their lists so they don't become victims this holiday season.
"Cold weather doesn't stop us from shopping and it sure doesn't stop thieves from going out and looking for victims," said Terri Miller, director of H.E.A.T. "The holidays are a joyous time of year that could easily be ruined by having your vehicle broken in to, or stolen. It's important to take a few extra minutes to protect yourself, your vehicle and your belongings."
H.E.A.T. reminds shoppers to be cautious and prepared while shopping this holiday season by following these tips:
- Stay alert and watchful. While walking to your car, take a moment to observe your surroundings. Talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages can be a distraction, all of which make you an easy target.
- Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas. Try to avoid shopping alone after dark. If possible, avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area such as dumpsters, bushes, large vans or trucks. Use valet services where available.
- Place valuables and purchases in the trunk or out of view. Before leaving your car, make sure anything of value is locked in the trunk or out of sight.
- Unload your most valuable items first. Criminals are getting bolder about approaching people in their driveways. Take children and elderly relatives into the house first so they are not left in the car while you unload your packages. Never leave vulnerable loved ones alone in a vehicle, even if you will only be gone "for a minute."
- Move your car. If you return to your car in the middle of a shopping trip, move to another area of the parking lot, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter a thief who may have been watching you unload your purchases and return to the stores.
- If threatened by a carjacker, GIVE UP THE CAR. DON'T RESIST OR ARGUE. Most carjackings involve a weapon. A life is always more important than any vehicle.
- If you witness an auto theft or carjacking in progress, call the police immediately. You can then call H.E.A.T. to register your tip. If you have any information regarding an auto theft, insurance fraud, carjacking or any auto theft-related crime, call the 24/7 confidential H.E.A.T. tip reward line at 1-800-242-H.E.A.T.
H.E.A.T. works with Michigan law enforcement agencies to follow-up on tips. Tipsters are awarded up to $1,000 if the tip leads to the arrest of or issuance of a warrant for a suspected car thief or a person suspected of auto theft-related insurance fraud. H.E.A.T. rewards up to $2,000 for information leading to the issuance of a warrant for a carjacking suspect. Rewards of up to $10,000 are issued if a tip results in the arrest and binding over for trial of a suspected theft ring or chop shop operators. The H.E.A.T. tip line is monitored by the Michigan State Police and funded by Michigan's auto insurance companies.