Police warn shoppers to avoid being crime victims during holiday - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Police warn shoppers to prevent being crime victims during holidays

Sheriff's deputies keep an eye on holiday shoppers at Village at Sand Hill Sheriff's deputies keep an eye on holiday shoppers at Village at Sand Hill

Thieves will use whatever they can.

"Big bags from other stores. Strollers is a big one."

This week in Kershaw County, a man used a wheelchair to steal meat from a supermarket.

It's bold thefts like that, all over the Midlands, that has LIDS store manager, Ryan Boston watching out for thieves trying to steal his hats.

"They'll huddle up in the corner together and kind of look around to see who's watching," said Boston. "You can kinda' see it all over their face."

He has an alarm system, security cameras and vigilant employees to make sure customers are being helped but aren't helping themselves to free merchandise.

"You can blame the economy. You can blame all types of different avenues," said Richland County Senior Deputy Kevin Lawrence. "During the holiday season crime is always going to pick up."

Lawrence said his role on the Community Action Team is to be visible.

"Nine times out of ten, if a crime is going to happen, it's not going to happen when they see that marked patrol car with the star on it that says 'police' or says 'sheriff department,'" said Lawrence. "They're going to take it elsewhere."

Whether it's holiday season or off-season, being educated about crime is one of the best ways to guard against being a victim.

"Pay attention to your surroundings," said Lawrence. "Make sure you park in a well-lit area. Always beware of the vehicles you park beside."

"A lot of people have this false sense that they can't call police for something minor and that's not right," said Lawrence. "If something is out of place to you or something is a problem to you, that's why we're here - to keep the peace and help you."

Employees of the BP gas station on Two Notch Road near The Village at Sand Hill rely on the Sheriff's Department, having seen more than a dozen of their neighboring businesses get robbed.

"They always come by, sit out there for an hour or two to make sure everything is good," said the manager. "Mainly when I'm closed so that gives me a security blanket."

"If you know what to look for and you stay on top of everything and you have a store that's been properly trained, all employees, everything will be fine," said Boston.

Whether you're a business owner or a customer, the key is being proactive.

"Paying attention, being a nosy neighbor, being vigilant," said Lawrence. "Being willing to call law enforcement when you see something out of place."

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