WASHINGTON - While shoppers are hunting for the best deal, thieves will be searching for an easy target.
And to help keep shoppers stay safe this holiday season, Montgomery County Police will increase patrols at 10 local shopping centers, says Police Chief Tom Manger.
Police will also hand out 5,000 reusable neon yellow bags with a pair of eyes and a message that asks, "Can you see me now?"
Manger announced a new safety campaign called "Shop with a Cop" Tuesday to ring in the start of the holiday season.
The number of crashes involving pedestrians in parking lots and on streets surrounding shopping areas increases during this time of the year. According to the Montgomery County Police Department, roughly 20 percent of pedestrian collisions take place in parking lots.
Thefts from vehicles and robberies also spike during the holidays, Manger says.
"We're just asking people to stay aware and use those common sense measures that we talk about every single holiday season," he says.
Police say shoppers should make sure that drivers can see them as they walk through parking lots. And once the shopping is done, police say bags should be stowed out of sight in a locked trunk; don't leave them on a car seat to tempt passersby.
"If that individual is inclined to steal it, all they've got to do is break a window and they've got the merchandise," he says.
Shopping centers taking part in the Shop With a Cop program include:
- Congressional Shopping Center, Wintergreen Shopping Center, Federal Plaza and Fallsgrove Village, Rockville
- Cabin John Mall, Potomac
- Shops in the Central Business Districts of Bethesda and Friendship Heights
- City Place Mall, Silver Spring
- White Oak Shopping Center, White Oak
- Briggs Chaney Shopping Center, Briggs Chaney
- Aspen Hill Shopping Center, Aspen Hill
- Westfield Wheaton
- Milestone Shopping Center, Germantown
- Lake Forest Mall, Gaithersburg
Tips for safe shopping include:
- Stay alert, be aware of your surroundings
- Park in well-lit areas
- Don't carry large amounts of cash
- Close purses and keep them close to the body
- Carry a wallet in an inside coat pocket or front pants pocket
- Trust your instincts - if something makes you uneasy, avoid the person or situation and head to a safe area.
- Have your house or car keys in hand before reaching the door
- If someone does try to rob you, police say don't resist. Give up the property - do not endanger your life. Report the crime to police as soon as possible and try to describe the attacker as accurately as possible. Rapid reporting may prevent others from becoming victims.
WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)