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READY, SET, SHOP: As stores and sales beckon, experts urge shoppers to be safe

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People around the country will flock to stores for big discounts this weekend, and that’s no different in Pike County.

Kathy Sauer, president of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, said it’s a great time for storeowners and shoppers alike.

“It’s important for our businesses, but it’s also a great opportunity for customers looking to start their seasonal shopping,” Sauer said. “It kicks off the holiday season with seasonal sales and inventory, so it’s a great time for people making their holiday shopping lists.”

The retail holiday is one of the biggest moneymakers for retail stores and starts their most important season. But Sauer said that stores are also focusing on getting customers to come back after the shopping season ends.

“Not only are there great deals, but there are great people and you get that return factor for our brick-and-mortar stores,” Sauer said.

Unfortunately, not everyone looking for deals during the holiday weekend is getting them from stores. Thieves look to exercise their five-finger discounts to snag items from the possession of residents out doing their holiday shopping.

“Theft is a big problem this time of the year in most places,” said Troy Police Chief Randall Barr. “Don’t assume that you’re the only one that’s shopping. Thieves may be watching everything you do. Theft is a crime of opportunity. “

Data from Travelers Insurance shows that theft from parked cars is 20 percent higher on Black Friday than the rest of the year. Data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau showed that nearly 4,000 vehicles were stolen on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

“The number one thing is to make sure you lock your doors and don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle,” Barr said. “You might even want someone to stay with your vehicle that can drop you off at the front door so that you don’t leave valuables unattended.

“Put that stuff in the trunk, try to get it out of sight – out of sight, out of mind. You don’t want to encourage them to break into your vehicle. Make big-ticket items the last thing you purchase so you can take them home once you get them.”

Home theft can also be a problem during the holidays, Barr said.

“Everyone knows what time of year it is,” Barr said. “Most people this time of year put up a tree and exchange gifts, and thieves know that.”

Barr suggested security systems and cameras as the safest way to protect the home. An alternative option to security system is using a trail cam normally used for hunting for home surveillance. Barr also cautioned to be careful when making online purchases to make sure that somebody will be at the delivery address to accept packages, as opportunistic thieves can easily steal boxes left on porches.

A release from State Farm reminds drivers to be careful at stores on the holiday as well, as busy parking lots can lead to an increase in accidents.

Three tips they give to avoid parking lot accidents are to slow down, expect pedestrians and park in spaces with plenty of room to open doors.