Avoid being the victim in a crime of convenience

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's an old age piece of advice: If you look around and don't see someone who looks like they could be a crime victim, it's probably you.

That advice has never been more relevant than it is today, as we rent movies, get cash, even switch out propane for our gas grilles from kiosks in local parking lots, making us open targets, police say, for thieves.

WMBF News Anchor, David Klugh investigates how our "culture of convenience" is making it easier for criminals to do their shopping as well.

Let's start with a little self-analysis.  After all, at no other time during our regular day do we put ourselves in such a vulnerable position as we do when we visit a kiosk. Regardless of the kiosk, whether you're renting a movie or you're at an ATM, you are laser focused on what you're doing.

You're likely paying no attention to what's going on around you. Your wallet or your purse is open, your credit card or cash is out and ready for any criminal who might want to make you a victim. So why do we put ourselves in this position?

Police will tell you it's all about our new culture of convenience, and Maya Bougebrayel knows all about that.

One day while taking advantage of the convenience of a kiosk, with her purse hanging open, her focus only on what she was buying, her cell phone was lifted and she never felt a thing.

"You're not noticing. You're grabbing a movie. They come up behind you. You honestly have no control over that,"  recalls Bougebrayel.

Keith Goode has seen the culture shift, and the criminal shift right along with it.

"This is my 23rd year with the Myrtle Beach Police Department," Goods explains.

This Sergeant talks to thousands of victims every year. The shift to renting movies, getting cash, buying just about anything in a parking lot is making all of us ripe for the picking.

"Everyone's in a hurry these days and they want to get things done and when you're in a hurry, you make mistakes," predicts Sgt. Goode.

Mistakes or not, many of us have become programmed to accept our role as victims.

Noah McCall and his friends are just visiting Myrtle Beach, but even at home in New York, they have all come to the same realization.

"Don't be ashamed to always think, not necessarily someone is out to get you, just know that someone is out to get you, somewhere," advises McCall.

Not if you don't let them, not if you understand them.

"When they see you standing at the ATM, they view you as a potential victim. They don't care about your personal situation; they don't care about your financial situation; they don't care how you would suffer. What they think of is how they would benefit," says Paul Butler with the Horry County Sheriff's Office.

Bottom line, as technology makes it possible to shop from a box outside the store, those brick and mortar buffers between you and the bad guys disappear. Police insist your approach must change as well, adding that so far, it has not.

"I've seen some ladies when I come over here, put their purses down so they can get situated to look. I mean, it's very easy [to become a victim]," says Bougebrayel.

Yet even with your purse around your shoulder, it's easy.

"When we step out of that car we need to know what we're doing. We need to be bold about it. We need to be quick about it, and we need to make sure that we lessen our chances of being victimized by not acting like victims," argues Butler.

The solution is pretty simple. Just bring what you need to the kiosk. Just the credit card. Leave the purse in the car, the wallet in your pocket.  And most importantly, know your surroundings.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.