Police offer safety tips to holiday shoppers

LAWRENCEVILLE -- As certain types of crime rise around the holiday season, Gwinnett police want to remind shoppers to be extra cautious about their surroundings.

Gwinnett Police Cpl. Jake Smith said a holiday task force will begin during the evening hours of Thanksgiving Day, and will operate on weekends through Dec. 31. The types of crime police notice an uptick in during the holidays are entering autos, robberies, financial fraud and DUIs.

"This annual operation puts additional officers in shopping districts throughout the county with the purpose of reducing crime against holiday shoppers," Smith said.

Smith recommended that shoppers take a cell phone picture to immediately record serial numbers of purchases in case an incident happens and the number could be provided to police.

Smith offered tips for citizens to stay safe during the holidays:

• Observe your surroundings; report any suspicious or loitering persons

• Store packages in the trunk of your vehicle and not in the passenger compartment. Covering items with a blanket or coat is not a deterrent to thieves

• Avoid putting packages into your vehicle, then continuing to shop. Most stores will hold packages until you are ready to leave

• Park your vehicle in a well-lit area

• Shop with others and allow retail employees to assist you in transporting packages to your vehicle

• Don't carry large amounts of cash. Use secure payment such as a credit card and check your account statements frequently

• Have purchases delivered to your home

• When traveling, arrange for someone to collect your mail and newspapers. Do not announce travel plans on answering machines or social networking sites

• Do not drink and drive. The holidays are host to numerous social gatherings and alcohol is frequently involved. Call a taxi or use a designated driver.