Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Shoppers on a Budget, Criminals on a Mission

A woman who thought she was just giving directions to someone became a crime victim in a matter of seconds. Reportedly, when 22-year-old Julia Corker of Tennessee started talking to a young man at a busy intersection around 9:30 p.m., another man approached her Chevrolet Tahoe and ordered Corker out. Corker, the daughter of Sen. Bob Corker (R), Tennessee did not move fast enough for the criminals. According to Todd Womack, the senator’s chief of staff, the carjackers grabbed Corker by the neck and dragged her out of the SUV.

Thankfully two things happened that brought about quick relief. The senator’s daughter sustained minor injuries and police say a Global Positioning System led officers to a strip mall in Maryland. The two suspects, 25-year-old Steven Alston, of Northeast, DC and 22-year-old Dewalden Connors of Maryland, were sitting in the vehicle. They are being held in a Maryland jail and await extradition to Washington, DC. Both face charges of possession of a stolen vehicle and unarmed carjacking.
The timing of the crime and technique is a teachable moment for everyone, especially as millions of shoppers hit malls across the country buying holiday gifts. “All criminals look for two things, an opportunity and people they view as easy targets, says Baltimore City Detective, Donny Moses.

The holiday season likely rolls out easy targets with valuable merchandise. The National Retail Federation predicts the average shopper will spend around $682 on family members and friends. Maple Morgan, 34, has a holiday list and a budget. “I plan to spend about $500 this year,” says Morgan. Morgan also has a plan to ensure her gifts safely make it from the mall to her home. “I usually shop with a group of friends because it’s a lot of fun and it also protects you from being robbed,” says Morgan. Her holiday precaution is in-line with a list of safety measures police suggest everyone considers, as they are out and about buying presents.

Just as you scour retail stores, strip malls and outlets looking for a great sale, criminals think the same way. “If you exit a store with a bunch of bags in your hand and you are trying to search for keys and talking on a cell phone, what you’re giving a criminal an invitation,” says Moses. Another way to ward off robbers is to not toss shopping bags on the backseat of your vehicle and make multiple trips to stores. “Lock those gifts up in you trunk,” says Moses. “We have a lot of problems with people getting their cars broken into because they leave valuables exposed,” he adds.

Like many shoppers, Morgan may find herself alone as she narrows down her holiday to-do list. For that she has a plan too. “If I’m alone, I usually ask a mall security officer to escort me to my car,” says Morgan. “I’m more cautious about being safe around the holiday season because I think that’s when criminals are out looking to take whatever they can because they know you have money and gifts.”
“I usually shop with a group of people for two reasons. I have a lot of fun with friends and it also adds an extra layer of protection,” says Morgan.

All of the shopping safety tips seem simple and self-explanatory but with all of the distractions, holiday cheer and energy that consume millions around this time of year, the basics are easy to forget. In many cases, as with the recent carjacking in the nation’s capitol, losing sight of being safe can quickly become costly.

Please forward all comments about this story to Maniko Barthelemy at

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