TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced the agency’s plan to help keep holiday shoppers safe in the coming weeks.
In a news conference Tuesday, Chronister discussed “Operation North Pole Patrol,” described as “a strategic plan dedicated to ensuring the safety of our community during the upcoming holiday season.”
Chronister was joined by deputies utilizing various modes of transportation, including those mounted on horses and motorcycles. He said deputies utilizing bicycles were “invaluable” when responding to incidents within shopping centers and large parking lots.
Members of the sheriff’s office’s new “organized retail theft squad” will be out among shoppers in plainclothes, according to Chronister. Those deputies crack down on shoplifting operations that drive up prices for law-abiding shoppers, Chronister said.
The sheriff’s office reminds community members of several common-sense safety tips to “make it harder on thieves.” Residents should lock their cars and remove all valuables before shopping and after arriving back home. Use credit cards instead of carrying large amounts of cash, if possible.
“We had 150 car burglaries from Black Friday last year until the day after Christmas,” Chronister said. “And the majority of those 150 car burglaries in unincorporated Hillsborough County were because they simply didn’t lock their car doors.”
Keep an eye out for potential scams while shopping online; if a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. Check credit card activity daily for suspicious transactions.
To deter porch pirates, arrange to have packages delivered to a trusted neighbor or friend, or even to their workplace, if they know they aren’t going to be home to receive the delivery. Utilize services like Amazon lockers when possible.