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Friday February 12th, 2016 1:19PM

Police ready for holiday shoppers - and thieves

By B.J. Williams News Director
LAWRENCEVILLE - As retail outlets prepare for Black Friday, area law enforcement officials are making plans to watch out for thieves who target shoppers this time every year.

Police Corporal Jake Smith said the Gwinnett County Police Department will once again have a Holiday Task Force patrolling the larger shopping venues in the county, such as Mall of Georgia, Gwinnett Place and Sugarloaf Mills.

Smith said because there are so many high-volume shopping centers in the county, the volume of thefts during the holiday season tends to rise.

Even though there will be increased police presence around the malls from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, Smith said shoppers need to take some steps to make sure their purchases are safe. Most, he said, are common sense.

"Storing the the things that you buy in your trunk is a big one...not just behind the glass in the passenger compartment in your car but in your trunk, not shopping alone, letting employees assist with taking merchandise to and from your vehicle if that's offered," said Smith.

He pointed out that thieves aren't always just after packages, however; identity theft is also prevalent this time of year.

"[Use] a secure form of payment like a credit card, something where you can check that at the end of the day or the end of the week and see if there's anything in there that doesn't belong, and if there is, dispute it," said Smith.

Smith also cautioned about having a false sense of security on Black Friday. He said while there may be plenty of shoppers who can witness criminal activity, the crowds may also conceal someone who may be following you. In fact, he said he recalled an incident from 2011 where a thief followed a shopper from the Apple store at the Mall of Georgia to the person's home and then stole the item.

"It's always best to err on the side of caution," Smith said.
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