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Stay safe while shopping this season

Lawton_According to research group the C-Q Press, Lawton is the 59th most dangerous city in the country.  It released its 2008 city crime rankings this week, ranking New Orleans number one, followed by Camden, New Jersey, and Detroit, Michigan.  The group bases its rankings on 2007 FBI statistics of violent and property crimes for almost 400 cities in the United States.  While Lawton ranks high in crime, Tulsa is worse at 37th, while Oklahoma City comes in at 77th - Wichita Falls is 176th.

Lawton police say that one way to bring the city's ranking down is to not make yourself a target - particularly true this time of year when the holiday season may bring an increase in smaller crimes.  With Black Friday only a few days away, Christmas one month from today, and more shoppers in stores, there's an increase in potential victims for criminals.

The economy is suffering, and folks looking to shop for the holidays may turn to stealing if in dire straights.  "Everything kind of goes up a little bit in spurts, getting more towards the holidays," said Lawton Police Detective Brent Yarbrough.  "Towards Christmas, we do see an influx in burglaries, larcenies - and even on some occasions - robberies."

Yarbrough says that purse snatchings increase during this time of year, especially when women leave their purses open and unattended in shopping carts.  "They're bad about unzipping it, unbuttoning, unfastening it, where it's readily accessible to anybody that walks by to stick their hand, get a wallet," he said.  "It's gone within a matter of seconds."

With thieves lurking around malls and shopping locations, don't forget to lock your car doors.  When you walk outside to the parking lot, know where your valuables are and protect them.  "Hang onto it for dear life," said Yarbrough.  "If something unfortunately does happen, let that purse go - that stuff can be replaced.  You don't want to get banged up, hurt or worse - get killed - over a purse or the contents of a purse."

When you leave a store with your shopping cart, put your purse in the car first, then unload your cart - and lock all valuables in your trunk.  Don't carry credit cards or checks that you won't be using during the shopping trip - keep those in a safe place at home.  If you are going out of town for Thanksgiving, or heading out to do some Black Friday shopping, Crimestoppers advise you to be aware of your surroundings, and make sure you feel comfortable getting out of your vehicle. 

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