As the holiday shopping season moves into high gear, police officers from around the East Valley and posse members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office are beefing up their patrols around high-volume shopping areas and reminding those in the bargain fray to be alert.
This weekend, retailers anticipated one of the largest shopping times of the year, but shoppers need to be alert more than ever as thieves target people parking in dark areas, walking alone or seeming preoccupied with numerous packages and roaming children.
During the holidays, the potential for thefts and robberies increases. More people are out and about, and they are carrying more gifts and money than during other times of the year.
Police departments throughout the East Valley - Mesa, Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert - are beefing up patrols around the Fiesta and Superstition Springs malls in Mesa, Arizona Mills mall in Tempe and Chandler Fashion Square as well as around nearby retail stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, with sprawling parking lots.
Malls also plan to place more security officers in strategic areas during the busy shopping season.
In the month of December, burglaries, thefts and attempts of assault increase in some parts of the United States by as much as 20 percent, according to statistics from Smith Publicity, a New Jersey-based public relations firm that conducts research and reports on trends.
"Obviously, we're more vigilant this time of year," said Sgt. Joe Favazzo, a Chandler police spokesman. "We plan to have officers spend as much extra time as possible in the shopping areas during this time of year."
Favazzo was quick to warn shoppers not to let packages pile up in their cars.
"Don't leave anything sitting where people can see it," Favazzo said.
Following an 18-year holiday shopping safety tradition, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's posse, consisting of hundreds of volunteers, is making sure they are providing an extra presence.
Numerous posse members will be at shopping sites throughout the Valley to provide additional security and assist shoppers through Dec. 26.
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