JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just days before Christmas and all through the mall, last-minute shoppers are searching the walls.
In addition to feverish shoppers, mallgoers should expect to see someone watching. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is stepping up its presence in shopping centers, helping keep shoppers safe.
The JSO says knowing the good guys are there makes all the difference.
"People know that every year around this time JSO will put more police officers in the malls,” News4Jx crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said.
Smith said just having a greater police presence can be enough to deter bad guys from trying something. Both the Avenues Mall and the St. Johns Town center have adjusted their security and police presence due to the increased traffic. Smith said this is a great start, but shoppers also have to be on the lookout.
Shoppers should remember that bad guys don't care about being nice. While people are out shopping, thieves are working to rip them off without thinking twice.
"People are looking for that opportunity,” Smith said. “They're expecting you to be relaxed, they're expecting you to not be focused.”
And it only takes a second for thieves to make their move. Smith said don't make it easy for them by holding purses by the hand. Put the purse up on the shoulder instead.
Smith also suggests using a purse that can go across the body. And above all, if anyone out shopping sees anything that concerns them, they need to go to security or police.
While protecting yourself is important, there’s no doubt some of the most brazen of thieves will take whatever's left out.
Smith said parents need to talk to their children about safety as well.