Cullman enjoys peaceful start to Christmas shopping season


Christmas shopping is well underway in Cullman, and authorities say it’s been mostly peaceful. One of the city’s major retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, is seen here on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017.

CULLMAN – As the nation entered into the heart of Christmas shopping season on Black Friday (and at many stores, Black Friday Eve) last week, it didn’t take long for television news and social media to begin displaying how commercial Christmas can bring out the worst in people: pushing, shoving and outright fighting over hot ticket items and doorbuster specials.  As close as Birmingham, the Galleria had to close early one evening because of what local news outlets termed a “brawl” between shoppers.

Not so in Cullman.  The Cullman Police Department (CPD) reported to The Tribune Monday that Black Friday and the weekend came off peacefully.  There were stories of minor confrontations between shoppers at one area store, but none of what the police termed “major incidents.”

CPD Assistant Chief Craig Montgomery explained, “We don’t have any of the traditional built-up mall areas like Huntsville and Birmingham have always had, and so, overall, we don’t have as many people clustered–like hundreds or even thousands in the Galleria–at any one time.  In Cullman, over the years, we have not experienced the issues and problems that they’ve had in other areas.”

Cullman has a history of peace and quiet during the shopping season, with a traditional small-town atmosphere and an enhanced police presence in retail areas to reassure shoppers and head off trouble at the pass.  Several area stores also hired off-duty police officers to work as a visible security presence inside their businesses.

“We have guys actually get out on foot patrol,” said Montgomery, “traditional beat-type officers that get out and just stroll down the sidewalks to be seen, to be visible.  I guess you’d say it inspires confidence in citizens, seeing their officers out and about, outside their patrol cars.  We’ve always done that, and we’ve always had retailers pay for additional security at specific retail businesses here in town.”

Advice for shoppers

To those who are out and about shopping, Montgomery offered, “We’ll take the opportunity also to remind people, when they’re out shopping-they’re buying gifts, they’re buying presents-sometimes they’ll go put them in their car, and then walk to an adjacent store.  Oftentimes, they’ll leave the gifts in plain view.

“I would encourage them to put their gifts and presents out of view, if possible: in the trunk area if you have a car.  In an SUV, maybe put them in the back area, where hopefully the windows are darker; or put a blanket over the item.”

From the National Crime Prevention Council

The National Crime Prevention Council offers the following advice to keep holiday shopping experiences safe:

Shopping in stores

–Do not buy more than you can carry.  Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.

–Save all receipts.  Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases.   Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

–Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as one-time or multi-use disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.

–Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook.  An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.

–Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package.  The same applies if you are using mass transit.

Walking to and from your car

–Deter pickpockets.  Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.

–Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.

–Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.

Shopping with small children

If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you are separated from each other.  Select a central meeting place, and teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.

Shopping online

–Before surfing the internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed. Visit for free software downloads.

–Keep your personal information private and your passwords secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your passwords or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.

–Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

–Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.

–Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.

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