If you're planning to hit the stores this Black Friday in search of a deal, police say you should keep an eye out for more than bargains to avoid becoming a victim of theft.
"This is the prime shopping season for thieves, too," said Lt. Bob Wooldridge with the Knoxville Police Department. "Our officers are going to have heightened patrols in some of the busiest areas to protect our citizens."
Heightened patrols takes on a literal meaning as the KPD deploys its Sky Watch observation towers at the Knoxville Center and West Town Malls. The Sky Watch towers provide a bird's eye view to allow the police to keep track of who is naughty or nice.
"It is equipped with video camera and we staff it with an officer. The units provide the officer with a 360 degree view of the parking areas," said Wooldridge. "It is nice to have because it just gives our shoppers an extra sense of security and gives us that extra watchful eye from our officers' viewpoint."
Although the police will have an increased presence, Wooldridge said shoppers can take some simple steps to deter crime.
"This may sound obvious, but we recommend locking up their vehicles. A lot of crimes happen when people forget to lock their cars. Also, make sure they don't leave valuables out in plain sight. Things like GPS navigational systems, cell phones, laptops, and other valuables should be locked up in the trunk instead of in the main part of the vehicle," said Wooldridge.
Police also advise shoppers to keep any mail or other items with personal information on it out of plain sight, especially if your vehicle is equipped with a garage door opener.
"There have been some instances where a car break-in led to the robbery of a home because a thief was able to steal the garage door opener and use mail to know exactly where the victim lived."
Along with locking things tight in your vehicles, Wooldridge recommends keeping a close watch on the valuables shoppers take into the stores.
"Have your purse up under your arm where it can be secured. Don't set your purse or cell phone in a shopping cart where someone can snatch it and run." Wooldridge added, "We do recommend having a phone with you at all times. Have that cell phone readily available in the event you do need some assistance. Don't be afraid to jump on that phone, call 911 and get us involved. That is why we are here."
Another are thieves target are dressing rooms where people may leave valuables in clothes pockets while they try on different clothes.
"Just be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave any items unattended for a second. We want people to have an enjoyable shopping season because this is a great time of year," said Wooldridge.
Wooldridge also recommends people not shop alone.
"Shop in pairs or with a group because that extra set of eyes and ears can help you be aware of what's going on. Plus, it is usually more fun to shop with friends," said Wooldridge.