BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
The excitement and anticipation of the Christmas season is upon us! Many retailers began their subtle reminders as early as September. Distractions a-plenty!! There are so many sights, sounds, smells…you name it. During the holiday season our sensory processing systems are in complete overdrive to take it all in. We simply cannot resist all the temptations that the Christmas experience has to offer us. It is certainly the most wonderful time of the year! But with all these worthy distractions, we can’t overlook the simple fact that criminals are shopping too---on the premise that we are too “distracted” to secure our belongings with proper vigilance. Let’s face it, we all love a good deal, especially the word FREE. Criminals love it too---when it’s FREE at YOUR expense!
The best way to take charge of your personal space is to understand what NOT to do. Try this strange, but very helpful, exercise. Next time you are out in public (such as a mall center), watch people and think like a criminal. Ask yourself “If I wanted to rob somebody who would it be?” I know it’s hard putting yourself into that mindset, but you’ll find by doing so will make you understand how NOT to carry yourself or your belongings. Criminals use the tried and true method of your lack of attention to detail.
So how can you improve your “attention to detail”? Here are some basic suggestions to help keep you and your loved ones safer and more aware while shopping this holiday season:
1. Cell Phone Usage
Perhaps the biggest distraction in today’s society are cell phones. I see it every day. People crossing the street, walking along the sidewalk, across parking lots--always looking down. By doing so, you are grossly unaware of your surroundings! Keep your head up, eyes focused and shoulders back while walking. Avoid lengthy phone and/or texting conversations while in public, and wait to use your phone until you reach your car or a safer place inside the mall/store.
2. Watch Your Bags
If you have packages with you and must set them down to either take a phone call/text or a much needed break, DO NOT set the bags down next to you! Keep your bags close together in front of you or between your legs. This will make a would-be target much less obvious.
3. Guard your purse!
Purse snatchings rise dramatically during the holiday season, as well as identity theft. Personally, if I’m going to a mall during “high risk” season I don’t even carry one. I take only the cards and/or cash I need and put them into an inside pocket. If you must carry a purse, I recommend you downsize to something smaller and more discrete. Oversized handbags make you look like a bulls-eye on a dart board. Remember to carry it close to your body (like under your arm) and not loosely grip or swing it while walking.
Being proactive and planning ahead for your personal safety will make your shopping experiences much more thrilling. Go out and enjoy every moment. ‘Tis the Season!
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.