The last Thursday in November is not only Thanksgiving Day, but also the start of the holiday shopping season.
While shoppers are busy hunting for bargains, criminals are prowling parking lots looking for their own five-finger discounts.
“During the holidays, you’re only thinking about, ‘Where do I need to go to next? What didn’t I get at this store? What do I have to go to another store to get?’” said Pennie Adams. “You’re just kind of not always thinking about (security).”
For the second straight year, the police departments of Live Oak, Universal City, and Selma are teaming up for Operation: Grinch, a multi-agency effort to keep shoppers at the Forum shopping center safe from would-be thieves.
“For an entire month you'll see extra resources out here, both plain-clothes (officers), uniform, bicycle, patrol -- you name it and we'll have it our here,” said Live Oak Police Chief Ken Evans.
Over the last three years there have been nearly a dozen burglaries or thefts reported at the Forum, but thanks to Operation: Grinch, property manager Christina Arseneau said the number of incidents is declining.
“It has happened less and less over the last few years and in large part because of the police officers that are out here patrolling,” she said. “We try very hard to have them strategically placed throughout the Forum so that if someone sees something they can call in immediately.”
Police urge shoppers to lock their cars and keep gifts in the trunk. If you have to put items in the backseat, try to keep them hidden.
Evan said shoppers should also have an airport mentality.
“If you see something, say something,” he said. “People see things that look suspicious and it enters their mind and they do not make the phone call and later on, they'll hear about it on the news and say, ‘Wow, I saw that and I didn’t call in,’ We would ask you to pick up that phone and call us.”
Evans also warned against the false sense of security of shopping in smaller cities.
“People think it’s not going to happen in a place like Live Oak or Selma, but it’s a crime of opportunity. It can happen to anyone, anywhere,” he said. “If it looks suspicious it probably is.”