The Houston Police Department and a group of large retailers provided Houston residents with safety tips they can use while shopping this holiday season during an event Monday.
“Everybody has to shop during this season, and we want people to get out and contribute to our great economy, our great city, but we want to be able to do it safely," said Chief Troy Finner.
Among the tips: Limit the number of items people carry around, like big handbags and reducing the amount of debit or credit cards carried while shopping. Another way HPD said residents can prevent themselves from being targeted is to watch the items they wear — like designer brands and jewelry.
"Everybody, everybody likes flashy jewelry," said Finner. "Leave it home right now, save that for the Halloween parties and everything else, let's just shop and look out for one another."
HPD said it’s focusing heavily on parking lot crimes and urging residents to be mindful of items left in their vehicles, such as bags, firearms, shopping bags and electronics.
Last year, HPD said over 3,600 firearms were reported stolen and this year’s totals are on track to surpass last year’s numbers. Finner said he doesn’t advise leaving firearms in your vehicles. They should be in a protected place.
"Please, please, please do not leave firearms in the vehicles," he said. "If you got a safe, a lockbox, please lock it up in there."
Aside from not leaving valuables in your vehicles, HPD said everyone should be aware of their surroundings at all times while shopping as well.
"When you're leaving a store, get off your cell phones, don't be distracted, okay," said Finner. "If you want to talk, please talk in the store where it's safe and where you [have] somebody."
HPD said shoppers can get escorted to their vehicles if they feel unsafe walking out to their cars alone or if they suspect any suspicious activity. HPD will have more officers on duty and at retail stores to keep everyone safe this holiday season.
"We're going to have a lot of officers out here," he said. “Seen and unseen, in uniform and plain clothes, working these areas – retail, some of our malls."
Finner said it’s going to take everyone working together to keep shoppers safe.
“Make sure that we're safe, make sure we do what Houstonians do – we look out for one another and we take care of one another," he said.
The Greater Houston Loss Prevention Alliance includes stores like H-E-B, Randalls, Kroger, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and Fiesta. The alliance has worked together with HPD for 13 years to reduce crime on retail properties.