As the holiday shopping season moves into high gear, police are beefing up their patrols around shopping centers throughout the East Valley and reminding those in the bargain fray to be alert.
Beginning this weekend, retailers are anticipating 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.
Following tradition of past holiday shopping seasons, 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, theft 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.
“Theft always goes up around the holidays,” said Sgt. Ed Wessing, a Mesa police spokesman. “Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to who’s walking behind you and don’t carry 30 bags. It’s always best to take some of the packages to the car and put them in the trunk and maybe move you car so people think you’re leaving. The more difficult you make it for them, the better it will be for you.”
Following a 17-year holiday shopping safety tradition, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s posse consisting of hundreds of volunteers will be kicking the shopping season off at the Paradise Valley Mall on Friday.
Numerous posse members will be at shopping sites throughout the Valley to provide additional security and assist shoppers through Dec. 26.
Some dos and don’t for holiday shopping safety
• Be aware of your surroundings and make eye contact with others you walk pass through the parking lot.
• Always lock your vehicle and don’t leave gifts or valuables in the car but place them in the trunk.
• Always park in a lighted area.
• Remove any garage door openers from your vehicle.
• Never leave your purse or wallet unattended in a shopping cart.
• Keep you arm around your purse strap.
• Be aware of who is walking behind you.
• Retailers also are encouraged to take precautions with credit card users and require proper identification from them.
• If shoppers see any suspicious people groups or activity, they are encouraged to go inside the store and report it to store security.
• Carry a cell phone. If someone makes you suspicious or uncomfortable, notify security or call the police.
• Don’t display reminders of high-dollar purchases while taking out the trash and recycling. Break down the boxes of TVs, stereos, computers, etc., and turn them inside out before disposing of them.
• If you are traveling for the holidays, make your home look “lived in”. Have a friend or neighbor collect your mail and newspapers or have your service suspended while you are away.
• Use timers to turn lights off and on. Also, while leaving your home to go shopping, leave lights on inside and outside your home and make sure all doors and windows are locked.
Source: Mesa, Tempe and Chandler police departments’ crime prevention units