Despite the changing figures about just which day is busiest, the peak of shopping season is in progress now. Council Bluffs Police Chief Keith Mehlin says it’s also a busy time for his officers, who get more calls about theft and other crimes this time of year. He wants anybody who faces a robbery to take his advice…and give in.
Around Christmas time he sees robberies go up, and they’ve already started in the city. He quotes an old sergeant who once told him the goal of a police officer is “to make sure you go home with the same amount of holes in you that you came with.” The same goes if you find yourself the target of a stickup.
Chief Mehlin says clerks should give a robber the money they ask for, and concentrate on being a good witness about the incident when they tell police about it later. He says as a customer you also have a responsibility to be alert, and aware of your surroundings when you’re parking the car, walking in and out of shops and malls, and carrying your packages full of valuable items out from the stores.
If you see anything that doesn’t look quite right, go back inside the building, he advises.
From experience, the top cop says to be careful what you keep in your car — leaving things in plain sight is a temptation for a crook to take a few seconds to smash out your window and take them. “Just kind of be careful, and be aware that there are bad people out there.”
“Be aware that there are people out there who, if they see an easy mark, will try to take advantage of it.” Mehlin warns women to watch their purses and all shoppers to be alert and not misplace items. “If somebody steals your credit card or your checkbook, your life is going to be miserable for a long time.”
Ironically, the chief says some of the criminals are under the same pressure as the holiday shoppers they rip off. “There’s so much pressure put on people now to give gifts,” he says, noting, “some people don’t have the means to do that. Some people will turn to any way they can to be able to secure the means to give people gifts.” Sometimes he adds it can be hard for the police to tell if the crimes are holiday-related, meth-related, or just coincidentally happening this time of year.
Holiday purchases and any of your possessions that might attract a thief should be stowed in the vehicle’s trunk, or taken home before you leave the car parked in a public lot for another trip.