HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The holiday season is upon us, which means thousands of people in the Tennessee Valley are hitting the mall and other stores to get gifts for friends and family.
But according to police, those gifts are also a huge temptation for thieves. Real life grinches are snatching bags out of shoppers' hands or taking them from your car. Police say sometimes, you make it easy for them.
Law enforcement agencies across the Tennessee Valley say crimes like car prowlers and thefts spike during the holidays. Police call the holiday crime "crimes of opportunity."
Madison Police Captain John Stringer says it's your job to squash that opportunity all together.
"Some of the things that we want to make sure people aren't leaving in their vehicle is a cell phone," said Captain Stringer. "A lot of people have a bad habit of leaving their cell phone in the cup holder or center console."
He advises credit cards and purses should also be put away. The trunk is a good option for those items and shopping bags, but even doing that doesn't always keep the criminals at bay. Huntsville police say criminals know your tricks by now, especially if they're watching you.
"They will sit in shopping center parking lots and watch people put things in their trunks, especially their purses," said Huntsville Police Sergeant Mark Roberts.
Roberts says being aware of your surroundings is rule number one. That means putting down your cell phone and checking the area around your car before walking to it. He also advises making conversation with a fellow shopper on the way to your car to make it seem like you aren't alone.
"We've had multitudes of cases when people go in and go shopping and come out and of course their window is usually broke, trunk is open and their purse is gone," said Sgt. Roberts.
Roberts says extra officers will be on duty patrolling shopping areas for that very reason as part of "Operation Safe Shopping." However, it is ultimately your choices that prevent you from becoming a victim.
Other suggestions for staying safe while shopping, during this or any time of year:
- Utilize mall or store security if you think anything looks suspicious near your car
- Shop during daylight hours whenever possible
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry
- Park in a well-lit area; use parking signs to remember where you parked.
As police officials often advise, your best course of action is using common sense and staying alert.