The Dawson County Sheriff's Office wants everyone to enjoy their holiday shopping experience and encourages shoppers to do their part by following a few safety tips:
• Be aware of your surroundings at all times, particularly when approaching or leaving your vehicle
• Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while you are in or out of your vehicle
• If you shop at night, park in a well-lit area, and avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells or cars with tinted windows
• If there are suspicious people in the area, do not approach your vehicle alone. Ask security for an escort before approaching your vehicle
• Do not leave packages on the seats of your car. Lock all valuables in your trunk
• Avoid wearing expensive jewelry
• If possible, do not carry a purse or wallet. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If you must carry a large sum of money, divide the cash between your purse, pockets and/or wallet
• Pay for purchases with a check or credit card whenever possible
• Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused. Keep a record at home of all of your credit card numbers. Make sure to store this information in a secure location at your home
• Teach your child to stay close to you at all times while shopping. Show them in advance how to go to a store clerk and ask for help if you become separated
• If you can, shop with a friend or relative.
Thanksgiving is next week and with that comes the official start of another tradition - holiday shopping.
Big-box retailer Walmart will kick-off the holiday shopping season with a pre-Black Friday event on Thanksgiving Day.
The 6 p.m. sale on Thursday will highlight games for popular current-generation gaming systems, blu-rays and DVDs. The sale at 8 p.m. will feature a 50" monitor, headphones and HDTVs in various sizes.
The sales will continue Friday at 8 a.m. with iPhones, laptops and cameras of various models on sale.
North Georgia Premium Outlets will be opening select stores as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving for what they call "Midnight Madness."
"It is pretty crazy, but I think it's fun," Miranda Pruitt of Dawsonville said during last year's sales. "It's a good time, because you can get stuff that you might not be able to afford otherwise for your kids at Christmas, stuff that might have been a little bit too expensive before. When it's on sale, it's a lot easier to get."
According this year's report by the National Retail Federation, shopping will be up 3.9 percent from last year's estimated 147 million people that shopped either at stores or online. It is estimated that more than $602 billion dollars will be spend nationally on sales in November and December.
While finding that perfect gift at a bargain price is alluring, the Dawson County Sheriff's Office wants to remind everyone of predators that target shoppers each holiday season.
"In the last week, we've already had 13 entering auto cases in the area of the outlet mall and Walmart," said Capt. Ray Goodie.
To combat criminal activity this holiday season, the sheriff's office plans to increase patrols and have a more visible presence at popular shopping areas.
"In an effort to cut down on the number of these types of crimes that happen each year, the sheriff's office is going to increase uniform officer presence in the area, but we're also going to have undercover officers out in the area as well," Goodie said. "The undercover operations are to catch the person committing the crimes, while the increased uniformed officers are to deter others from committing them."