HAZARD – The holiday shopping season is upon us, and officials are urging caution this year to protect yourself from thefts and what police are calling crimes of opportunity.
Hazard Police Chief Minor Allen noted his department annually works an increased number of shoplifting cases in the months of November and December, and he expects that to again be the case this year. The 2013 shopping season will kick off on Black Friday, this year on Nov. 29.
“The big thing around the holidays is they’re all crimes of opportunity,” Allen said, adding it is not just shoppers who are affected during the uptick in theft during the holiday season. In several instances officers have worked thefts from vehicles parked on residential streets.
There are ways people can prevent themselves from falling victim to thieves looking for that next opportunity, Allen added.
“I would just caution people to always lock their vehicle, and leave it in a well-lit area,” he said. “Just look around the vehicle before you get out of it, make sure you haven’t left anything out in the open that would make somebody want to take it.”
Last year’s Black Friday sales broke records across the nation, with average shoppers spending $423 over the Black Friday weekend, with a total of $59 billion spent over the four-day period.
Over the months of November and December, Americans spent $602 billion in 2012, and the National Retail Federation expects that figure to increase by a further 3.9 percent this year.
And while more shoppers are turning to the Internet, millions of people still turn out for sales days like Black Friday. Here in Hazard, Black Friday draws thousands of people to area businesses. Allen urged people to be safe this year and avoid confrontations that seem to have become commonplace around the nation during the rush of Black Friday.
“There’s no deal that’s worth getting hurt over,” he said.
And, Allen added, shoppers in Hazard can expect to see more of a police presence over the holiday season.
“We try to be more proactive, especially around the shopping centers during the holidays,” he said. “We try to serve our business the best we can by putting an officer in those places to make it more accessible for them if they need assistance.”