Many studies and surveys over the years have shown that women do more Christmas shopping than men. In light of that, American Concealed spoke with Carrie Lightfoot, owner and founder of The Well Armed Woman, to learn some tips on how to protect yourself against holiday crime while out and about this holiday season.
“We all should be aware of everything all of the time, but situational awareness this time of year is our most important tool in staying safe,” says Lightfoot. “Being aware of our surroundings and the people around us is an important skill we need to train, practice and live with. We want our intuitive antennae tuned in for anything or anyone that just doesn’t seem right. Then we must loyally trust it and make adjustments to our activity to avoid them, this is key. The better our ability to scan for possible threats, the better our ability to avoid them and escape one if necessary. It’s just like when we are driving and constantly saying to ourselves, ‘If that truck veers over into my lane, what would I do?’ This is what we are saying to ourselves as we shop.”
Lightfoot says shopping, going to holiday parties and traveling to see friends may have us a bit stressed, distracted and rushing around. She advises: Don’t go anywhere alone. Try to keep your time out during the day, but if you must shop or go out in the evening, protect yourself against holiday crime by going with a friend and parking in a well-lit parking lot as close to the entrance as possible, preferably under a light and near cameras. When leaving, have your keys out and all of your attention on scanning your environment on the way to your car. Upon reaching your car, make sure there is no one around your car or near any other cars close to your vehicle. Do a visual check through your windows of the entire car to make sure nothing is out of sorts and get yourself and your bags in quickly and lock the doors immediately.
To protect yourself against holiday crime while you are getting in your car, you should already have your keys out and ready to get the car started and pull out instantly. Do not check your phone, receipts or anything else until you arrive home. If you have children, Lightfoot advocates setting very clear and firm guidelines with them on how you all will move from a store to your car. No ifs, ands or buts: you all walk to the car closely together, holding hands if necessary with no playing, talking or anything that would be distracting. And everyone gets into the car as quickly as possible. If you have the discipline to instill this practice, it will make your ability to stay aware and safe for years to come. If for any reason at any time something just doesn’t look or feel right as you leave the store, turn around, go back in and ask for a security escort. Stores are staffed to accommodate this, so don’t hesitate.
“Carrying your firearm on your person is always best as it provides the quickest access for you and no access to others,” emphasizes Lightfoot. “Carrying in the waist or anywhere in the sweet spot around your middle is ideal. It’s important to try to have your firearm in this same position all of the time so that under any circumstances you will know exactly where it is with no hesitation or fumbling.”
If this is not possible when driving, there are holsters designed for use in the car which can sit under your steering wheel or in your center console. Check your local laws as it is not legal in some states for the firearm to be visible.
“If you must carry your firearm in a purse, make sure it is a purse designed for concealed carry with a separate dedicated compartment for your handgun,” says Lightfoot. “Your gun must be holstered and the purse must stay on your body, cross-body (diagonally over your shoulder) at all times, even while in the store shopping. Do not put it in the shopping cart seat.”
When leaving the store, protect yourself against holiday crime by keeping your dominant hand free or at least holding something you are willing to let go of and drop if you need to access your firearm. If you have children, hold their hand with your left or non-dominant hand. “I will usually have my hand on my grip in my waistband or the holster compartment unzipped on my concealed carry purse with my hand on the holstered gun grip inside the purse as I walk to my car,” says Lightfoot. “This not only makes me feel better, it also allows me to be ready to draw quickly if the need should arise.”
“Thieves are looking for easy prey,” says Lightfoot. “They are looking for a target who is distracted and vulnerable—a dangling purse or shopping bag on a would-be victim who is on her cell phone and not paying attention to her surroundings makes easy work for the thief. The goal as we go about all of our holiday shopping and activities is to ‘look and be difficult.’ Here is where your situational awareness really stands out.”
Protect yourself against holiday crime by walking with a purpose with your head up and eyes scanning makes you unappealing to the thief. Make eye contact with everyone you come in contact with. Say “Hello” and let them know you see them and that you are watching them. Staying in well-lit areas at night also makes you less appealing, and the more people around you, the better. The idea here is to not give the perpetrator what he wants, an easy target.