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Crime alert: Criminals target holiday shoppers

News4Jax crime and safetyanalyst provides tips to keep you, your family safe

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 'Tis the season for shopping and decorating our homes for the holiday. It's also the season when criminals come out and target people, and some of the ways people are being targeted may surprise you.

News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith said we really need to be alert when we're shopping this holiday season and has some tips on how to keep you and your family safe.

Smith said this is the time of year when we normally see an increase in crime.

"People become desperate. They don't have the money to buy gifts, so the next best thing for them is to take it from someone else, so crime is going to be on the rise," said Smith.

Smith said if you're shopping, you want to make sure you don't leave a lot of gifts in your car.

"[If you do], at least hide the packages in the car and then move the vehicle, park the car some place around the mall and make it appear as though you're moving," said Smith.

Smith said criminals may be watching you, so if you move your car, it will make you less of a target.

He also suggests that you purchase your big ticket items last, so you're not leaving them unattended in your car and to park close to store entrances.

Smith said you should also ask workers at a store to walk out to your car with you if you're purchasing a big ticket item.

Make sure you're not shopping while distracted and only buy what you can carry to your car.

Smith also wants to remind women to put their purses over their shoulders and men to put their wallets in their front pockets, because the holiday crowds can make it easy for pick-pocketors.

Once you have your gifts, you'll want to be careful when you have them at home. Smith said this is a great time to get a security system if you don't have one.

Smith has some advice for those who don't have a security system.

"It would be a good idea to leave your gifts at a friend's or relative's home that does have an alarm system," said Smith.

Smith also said not to put Christmas trees near windows and to hide gifts well, in a place like the attic.

Another tip many don't think to do when shopping is to park near a security tower. They are portable towers where police are looking out, and they are at some shopping locations in our area like the Orange Park Mall.