Christmas shopping is in full force and shoppers are busy marking items off their holiday lists.
But one thing sure to ruin that holiday spirit is becoming a criminal’s target.
Columbia County sheriff’s deputies are busy protecting shoppers as they search for the perfect gift.
“Members of our Special Operations Unit will be conducting surveillance and extra patrols will be assigned to monitor business establishments to help ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable shopping experience,” sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said.
But there are many things shoppers can do to prevent themselves from becoming a target.
People dropping off shopping bags or gifts in their vehicle between shopping trips should place them in the trunk or out of plain sight. The same rule applies for purses and other valuables left in vehicles in parking lots.
“Experienced thieves often stake out parking lots to watch for people putting items in their trunk,” Morris said. “Help prevent car break-ins by putting valuables in your trunk before you get to the parking lot.”
Thefts from vehicles is often a crime of opportunity that can be avoided by simply locking vehicles.
“The overwhelming majority of entering auto cases involve vehicles left unsecured,” Morris said. “Think prevention and always lock your vehicle.”
Thieves also target people actually shopping.
Shop with friends or family as you’ll be a less likely target than if you shop alone. Avoid leaving purses, wallets and other personal items unattended in shopping carts. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and carry purses tightly under the arm, Morris said.
Identity theft is also a common goal of would-be thieves. Morris recommends checking receipts for additional charges.
Keep a watchful eye on debit and credit cards and checks.
Once shopping is complete, Morris suggested checking inside, under and around the vehicle before getting in. And trust your instincts.
“If something you see or hear makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious,” Morris said, “it’s probably because it should. Our request if that you call law enforcement.”
Anyone leaving town for the holidays should take advantage of the sheriff’s office House Watch program.
“(It’s) a free sheriff’s office service that sends a deputy to check on a residence periodically during the day and night.”