JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The Jacksonville Police Holiday Shopping Task Force has returned for the holiday season and will continue through Dec. 31.

The Holiday Task Force is a proactive approach to deter crime and keep shoppers safe. It is made up of teams of officers patrolling shopping areas. The officers will be on foot patrol, bike patrol and in patrol cars. Plain clothes officers will also walk through shopping areas, keeping an eye out for shoplifters.

The officers will staff the shifts on their off-duty hours.

“High visibility of the police presence concentrated in and around our major shopping areas is one of the best tactics we have to deter criminal activity,” Jacksonville Police Sgt. Gregory Ehrler, head of the Holiday Shopping Task Force, said. “It takes the help of concerned citizens and the cooperation of merchants to make the task force successful.”

The Jacksonville Police Department offers the following tips to shoppers:

  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Shop in groups
  • Conceal packages in trunks
  • Report suspicious people or activities immediately
  • Carry bags or purses in your hands rather than on your shoulder or back
  • Don’t leave purses in shopping carts
  • People carrying cash should be discreet – Don’t flash money when purchasing gifts

Jacksonville Police Department also reminds everyone to Hide-Lock-Take: Hide your belongings, lock your car and take your keys.

“Be aware of your surroundings and to remember to lock their vehicles, keeping valuable items out of sight,” Jacksonville Police Chief Mike Yaniero said.