GAINESVILLE — Black Friday doesn't happen until next week, but the Gainesville Police Department is starting extra surveillance of shopping areas in the city this weekend.
Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said GPD is being proactive when it comes to curbing auto break-ins and thefts this holiday season.
"We're able to take officers, utilize them in undercover vehicles - unmarked vehicles - put them in shopping centers or these areas which will be highly-populated throughout the Christmas season," said Holbrook.
Having undercover officers should make it easier to catch thieves who are stealing from shoppers, according to Holbrook. In addition, GPD will increase patrols of uniformed officers in shopping areas. He said part of that effort will be educational in nature.
"You will see officers in uniform walking around these complexes, these businesses handing out information [and] educating the public that they need to take [their packages], keep them out of plain view...hide them in the trunk, so they're not advertising themselves as victims," said Holbrook.
Holbrook noted the economy has been improving and that has translated to more shopping centers opening up in Gainesville, pointing specifically to New Holland Marketplace on Jesse Jewell Parkway and the new center that houses Academy Sports and Hobby Lobby on Dawsonville Highway. He said those new stores will attract more shoppers - and likely more holiday crime.
As far as tipping off potential thieves about the holiday game plan, Holbrook said he's not worried about that.
"We want the public to know what we're doing as well as the criminals," said Holbrook. "We want to let them [criminals] to know their business is not welcome in the city of Gainesville."