In the excitement of holiday shopping, it's easy to put safety on the back burner, but the Gainesville Police Department is hoping shoppers will take some precautions to protect themselves and their possessions this season.
Officer Nick Smith, who works with the department's Community Relations Division, said they've been planning for weeks how to make sure the travel and shopping experience in Gainesville will be good for the community. He said they'll have increased presence in the busiest areas, such as the Dawsonville Highway business corridor.
"We try to do a lot of extra patrols through these parking lots. We just want to make sure people's property and their vehicles are safe, so they can come in and have a good shopping experience," Smith said. "We're [also] out on the road more trying to do traffic enforcement...there are a lot of vehicles out on the road, so safety on the road is paramount...that's our priority during this week."
Smith said even though extra police patrols will be active in Gainesville's busier shopping corridors, shoppers need to take personal responsibility for safety, as well.
Smith said there are several steps shoppers can take to ensure safety:
- Always lock the doors of your vehicle
- Keep valuables in your vehicle out of sight. That includes shopping bags that might be tempting to thieves.
- Park in a well-lit area when shopping at night.
- Always have your car keys in your hand before leaving the store for the parking lot.
- When shopping with children, make sure you're holding their hand, especially in parking lots. Better yet, take another adult to help keep tabs on little ones in busy stores.
- Protect your debit card numbers by covering the PIN pad when making a transaction.
Smith said shopping in Gainesville is safer than in the metro Atlanta area, and while shoplifting and entering autos cases are not uncommon, the additional holiday patrols in years past have helped to minimize the problem.