As shoppers head back to the stores for post-Christmas sales in what is traditionally one of the busiest weeks of the year, Pleasanton police are urging motorists and shoppers to take extra precautions to protect their safety in public places.
Speaking at a meeting of the Valley Real Estate Network, Capt. Eric Finn and Crime Prevention Officer Ken McNeill said thefts can be avoided by making sure purses and parcels are kept out of view in parked cars and by shoppers taking extra care in leaving stores and walking to their cars.
"It's important to have your car keys at the ready as you're walking toward your vehicle," Finn said. "Be prepared to open the car door quickly, get inside and then drive away. When in a crowded parking lot, don't sit there on the phone; just move on."
McNeill urged the public to be aware of surroundings. If shoppers see someone approaching them who looks suspicious, change direction or go back into the shopping center if it looks as if you're being followed, he said.
Shoppers also should watch for someone sitting in a nearby car who looks as if they're watching pedestrians. Once inside your own car, lock the doors and drive away.
"So if people are potentially looking at you as a victim, make sure you get going and get out of that situation," Finn said. "Also, make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Don't let your gas get too low. The chances are that you'll run out of gas where you don't want to."
The officers also said that personal safety tips for motorists include being stopped in traffic.
Always leave some space between the car ahead at a traffic light and keep the car in gear, for instance, so that if someone rushes up to your car you can get out of that location quickly.
Have your cell phone charged and a Bluetooth decide operating so that you can call 911 in an emergency.
Finn said that while 911 calls made within the city limits go to Pleasanton police dispatchers, that may not happen on the freeways around the city or even in places such as Stanley Boulevard past Shadow Cliffs, which is an area programmed for the county sheriff's department.
To be sure of reaching local police, program the numbers of the Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin police departments on the cell phone to quickly contact the right agency.
Extra precautions are also suggested at the BART station parking lot and in the new BART parking garage near Stoneridge Shopping Center when the West BART station opens in February. Those facilities are protected by BART police who have officers there. At night, especially, it's wise to leave the train station with other commuters so that you're not walking to your parked car alone.
"If you are alone and don't feel safe, by all means call us at 931-5100m" Finn said. "We'll send an officer over to help."
Finn also had some safety tips for Realtors.
Keep your cell phone at the ready when holding an open house by yourself, with emergency numbers programmed for police and someone else who can rush to your side.
Don't follow suspicious clients into upstairs bedrooms.
If uncomfortable with a suspicious-looking client who wants to see the house, step outside in full view of others in the neighborhood until that individual leaves.