Huntsville Police increase patrols during holiday shopping season

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Shoppers in Huntsville this holiday season can expect to see more Huntsville Police Officers in major malls in addition to large and smaller shopping centers. The increased patrols will begin Friday, November 26, 2010 and run through Friday, December 31, 2010. Police Chief Mark Hudson said the goal for the marked Patrol Units and unmarked vehicle details are to prevent criminal activity and protect holiday shoppers. Police will also monitor parking lots with the Department's Bike Units for any suspicious individuals or activities.

Hudson said criminals often look for the easiest opportunity when deciding to commit a crime. Shoppers, particularly women, can be vulnerable to such crimes as theft, robbery and assaults, and that is why we are taking these progressive and proactive measures to ensure the safety of our families and shoppers. Huntsville Police suggest the following crime prevention tips and recommendations to make shopping as safe an experience as possible.

Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Knowing who and what is around you can help you avoid being surprised. It also allows you time to react if something does appear suspicious.

Display confidence. Criminals choose the victim who looks like the easiest target. That choice is partially based on their perception about your abilities to react to an attack. If you walk with a purpose, scan your surroundings, and make casual eye contact with others, you are displaying confidence.

Trust your instincts. If you have an intuitive feeling something is wrong or suspicious, react immediately and take action to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

Carry only what you need. Extra cash, credit cards, checks, jewelry and other items should be left at home --- not in your vehicle. If you carry a purse, keep it in front and close to your body. Men should keep their wallets out of back pockets where they are easily stolen. Carry wallets in your front pocket.

Don't be overburdened with packages. Carrying several shopping bags makes you look vulnerable. If a store cannot hold your merchandise until you finish shopping, place all purchases in the trunk of you car.

Shop with others. The chance of being victimized drop dramatically when you are with

Be prepared. Have your keys in hand when walking to your vehicle and use the alarm or alert button to signal if something is wrong.

Plan ahead. Choose areas to park where lighting is good and activity is high. Valuables in your car should be kept out of view. Be sure to lock your car and look in the back seat before getting in. Observe anyone sitting in a parked vehicle next to yours. Don't park next to dumpsters or high bushes that can conceal you from observation. Most auto burglaries occur when cars are unlocked.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable walking to your vehicle, most malls will provide a security escort upon request.