Law enforcement urges Black Friday shoppers to be vigilant

Police say crime, burglaries increase around holidays

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As thousands of people rush the malls and shopping centers for Black Friday deals, police urged shoppers to be vigilant as crime and burglaries increase every year around the holidays.

Grinches hanging around shopping malls and stores are looking to steal your Christmas.

A typical target?

A person they think is weak, (who) maybe can't fight for themselves or they can make a quick grab and run," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst.

There are various ways to avoid becoming a victim of crimes of opportunity. Smith said bad guys probably won't want to take the time to grab a bag from around your neck and cause a scene.

"Most people, when they're out in the malls, are trying to get to the store, thinking about the good deals and not their safety - like leaving a purse over the shoulder,” Smith said. (You can) use a cross body purse and put it over your shoulder. If I'm a purse snatcher, I'm not going to look at you because I'm not going to take the time and grab it from around your neck."

Sometimes, shoppers open themselves to risk by leaving merchandise in their car when they return to stores to pick up something extra or an item they forgot.

"Some safety measures are left behind,” Smith said. “For example, you may have a package in the backseat and return to the store. You don't want to do that. Instead, place it underneath someplace where it can't be seen from the outside, then secure the car."

Smith also recommends you move your vehicle to a different parking space before returning to a store.

"That way if someone's watching you, they think you're leaving the mall," Smith said.

Another thing shoppers should keep in mind as they’re putting bags into their vehicle is to be aware of people that could be watching you from behind. Smith said it's a good idea to shop with a friend and have a plan in place in case something goes wrong.

"Scream, make noise, whatever it takes to get that person away from you," he said.

Smith also said some people may leave their gifts in their vehicles parked in the driveway -- perhaps so family or friends don’t see them -- but it's an easy target for burglars. Instead, keep gifts at a friend’s house, or in the garage.