With an increased presence on the streets over the holidays, police in Montgomery are hoping for another successful season helping cut down on robberies, burglaries and thefts.
"While we're here in the parking lots of the shopping centers, we're also maintaining our presence out in the neighborhoods to ensure the safety of shoppers as well as residents returning home from making those big purchases for the holidays," said Lt. Regina Duckett, the Montgomery Police Department's Public Information Officer.
Criminals are on the lookout for easy opportunities casing parking lots, stores and homes so you have to be a smart shopper, police told WSFA.
"A lot of times, we get excited about the Christmas holidays. All we're thinking about is what we're going to do. So we need to stop, take a moment and look around the parking lot. Do a nice big 360-degree turn and look around. If you see anything unusual, you'll want to call police," said Corporal David Hicks, MPD's Business Crime Prevention Coordinator.
"There's more opportunity during the holiday season. We're spending more money, there's a lot more cash being handled in businesses and criminals see this opportunity and they use the same opportunity throughout the year but it increases during the holiday season so we have to be alert and aware," Hicks added.
His other shopping safety tips include:
Plan your day and make sure someone knows where you're going.
Limit flashy jewelry or expensive clothing so that you're not a target in specific areas where you may be shopping.
Before you go anywhere, secure your valuables. Don't leave them in plain sight.
Beware of pickpockets -- protect wallets and purses.
"If you're a man and carrying cash to make a big purchase, you may want to carry it in your front pocket. For ladies, tuck it under your arm and wrap the strap through their hand," Hicks said.
Stop your mail and newspaper if you're going out of town for a while so as not to bring attention to the fact that you're not home.
Don't set empty gift boxes on the curb in front of your house. Tear the boxes up and put them in the trash.
Shoppers we spoke to have their own safety practices in place.
"I really keep my eye on the children since they get so excited with all of the new toys being out and he can run off to another section of the store very quickly. I don't want to get separated from him in the crowded store," said shopper Lewis Stargill. "Other than that, I communicate with my wife so she calls me and knows where I am at all times and I call her and know where she is. I encourage everyone to have fun out there shopping but be safe."
"When we get our shopping carts, we buckle our purses in the shopping cart with the child strap. Then if somebody grabs your purse, they're taking the buggy with them so they're not going to be able to go," added shopper Jane Adams. "Also just watch around you and look around you when you leave the store that it looks pretty safe to go."