ROANOKE, Va. - As people get ready to head to the stores for the Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals, police are making sure shoppers get home safely with their gifts. The Roanoke Police Department has a command center set up at Valley View Mall this year. It will have officers patrolling the area looking for potential thieves and shoplifters.
As shoppers leave stores with their bags, Roanoke police say they can become targets for criminals.
"The two things that traditionally drive crime in Roanoke are shoplifting and then stealing stuff out of unlocked cars," police spokesperson Scott Leamon said.
Leamon said thefts now accounts for about a fourth of all crime in the Star City.
"That is on the rise this year, so if we want to get serious about reducing that, you're going to see a few more officers around," Leamon said.
Officers will be stationed right outside of Walmart and patrolling the area on bikes and on foot. The Roanoke police mobile command unit outside of Walmart allows officers to catch people stealing in the parking lot and charge them right on the spot.
10 News caught up with some shoppers and asked if that trend of theft was a concern.
"I work hard for my money, so if anything I buy is a large purchase, I want to be able to take it home and protect it," shopper Ayanna Jones said.
Jones said she often shops on Black Friday for her family, but knows to take precautions.
"When I do come out, I make sure I have someone with a truck and cover it up, because you never know," Jones said.
It's shoppers like Jones that police are hoping their proactive measures will protect.
"It makes me feel safe. I can come out to my car with my family and I don't have to worry about nobody. No pickpocketers, no one trying to steal or anything," Jones said.
Leamon said that feeling of safety is important, but there's also things everyone can do to keep from becoming a target.
"Instead of hiding my purse or wallet right when I get in the parking lot, go ahead and do it when you're there in your driveway, then drive to your destination because if I hide it right when I get there, then what's a potential thief seeing if he's casing the place?" Leamon said.
That simple step, Leamon said, can save thousands of dollars in lost merchandise.
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