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Expert: Protect Yourself When Shopping At The Mall

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The Short Hills mall murder has once again thrust mall security into the spotlight, especially in the final days before Christmas.

As CBS 2's Andrea Grymes reported, many mall customers have been wondering about the best ways to stay safe while shopping.

CBS 2 met up with Elaine from Yonkers just after she purchased a brand new television as a Christmas gift at Cross County Mall. But she had more than the holidays on her mind.

"It definitely, defintely makes me more aware," she said.

The murder and carjacking at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey on Sunday has left many shoppers on edge across the Tri-State Area.

"Coming out this morning, you know, I made sure I didn't keep my cash, like, right in front of my bag," Elaine said. "Now I have the TV, I'm going to go right home with it."

Horrifying violence at malls has made the headlines several times in recent months, from the Short Hills slaying to the shooting incident last month at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, to the recent mall attack in Kenya.

Retired NYPD Capt. Peter Moreno said shoppers must prepare for everything.

"You have to really think about what the possibilities are and what your reaction will be, because again, you're not going to have time to think," said Moreno, of K&H Security Solutions.

Moreno advises that you should:

• Look at your surroundings;

• Give off the vibe with your body language that you are not an easy target;

• Know where the exits are, in stores and in the parking lot;

• When choosing a parking spot, avoid areas that would attract a suspect.

"They're going to look for somewhere they can hide in the darkness, perhaps; where they can make their escape easier," Moreno said.

That means it is a good idea to try to find a well-lit spot with a short, direct path to the store. But that is not always easy during the holidays.

"I try to be as close to the door as possible," said Denise Thomas of Mount Vernon, "but you know, with this time of year, that's not happening too much."

Moreno advises if possible, get dropped off so you don't have to park.

And although many people like heading to the mall with a friend or family member, Moreno said the Short Hills murder proves safety is not always found in numbers.

He says you should not let your guard down, even when shopping in pairs or groups.

Experts also warn people not to go to their cars if they notice anyone suspicious nearby.

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