Holiday Safety 101

Oct 16, 2023Courtney Morris
Holiday season shopping cart

It’s the most wonderful time of year for many, criminals included. The season of bustling stores, big-ticket gifts, and distracted shoppers entices less-than-merry people to make their move.

Veteran police officer and San Jacinto College kickboxing instructor Perry Mayorga-Guerrero shares how to stay safe this holiday season and beyond.

Q: What makes people vulnerable during the holidays?

A: People have more on their minds: “What am I going to get my family? Will they like it?” Also, people are buried on their phones. They don’t stop to notice what’s around them. When people should be more alert, the focus comes off personal safety.

Q: What are the biggest safety concerns for me?

A: There’s a relatively new crime called “jugging”: Someone buys expensive stuff at a store or withdraws a lot of money at the bank. The criminal follows and robs.

The biggest time someone could rob you is when you’re not aware of your surroundings or you’re in your comfort zone. It happens in places you frequent — from Walmart to church to home — all hours of the day.

Q: How can I avoid putting myself at risk?

A: Go out in groups. Often, someone wanting to harm you would stop if you were with other people. Criminals are looking for easy targets — someone alone without protection. If you can deter at least one thing, the bad guy’s justification goes down.

Q: How can I stay safe while shopping in public?

A: Besides taking people with you, you could get a store security person to escort you to your car. Or talk to a manager: “Can y’all help me?”

Be open to ordering through a store’s mobile app. Many stores offer curbside pickup and will load your car for you. Online shopping and banking can mitigate the risk of a wad of cash in your pocket.

Q: How do I know someone might be scamming me?

A: If someone wants your personal information immediately — “Verify this info today” or “I need this urgently” — it’s probably a scam.

When it comes to handouts, be selfish. People can prey on your giving nature by showing a photo of hospitalized “family members.” There have been times when the actual parents say, “That’s our kid, but we don’t know you.”

Give to people you know and to established charities. People with emergency needs can go through appropriate channels rather than asking on the side of the road.

Q: If someone threatens me physically, what should I do?

A: Yell, “Fire!” Everyone loves to see a fire and will turn to look. The more eyes you can get, the more chances others can intervene.

If you’re yelling and nobody is coming, go for soft body parts like the eyes, ears, or nose. Criminals want to attack a vulnerable person, get what they want, and leave. If the victim takes an active role, it breaks the crook’s line of thinking and may give you time to get away.

Q: What about using self-defense tools?

A: Pepper spray and self-defense equipment are fine if you’re trained to use them and the criminal doesn’t take them and use them against you. But don’t rely on a tool alone because it won’t always work.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Look people in the eye as you pass and say hello. You can read whether they’re friendly or have bad intentions. You’re also letting that person know you know they’re there. Criminals don’t want you to see their face and identify them.

Finally, try out my class or another self-defense program. If you come in with a can-do attitude, you’ll do well.

Learn More

Perry Mayorga-Guerrero will share safety tips during the Senior Wellness Expo at the Central Campus on Friday, Oct. 20. Learn more about his Kickboxing for Fitness class at the North Campus by calling 281-542-2020.

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