Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Jimmy Young said shopping center parking lots during the holiday season are like an all-you-can-eat buffet for criminals.
Criminals prey on vehicles filled with packages and purses in the large, crowded lots, he said.
“Even if someone goes into one of the small stores, it’s going to take at least 30 minutes if it’s not crowded,” Young said. “It only takes the bad guys five minutes to do what they need to do.”
Many businesses try to minimize crime by hiring special-duty officers. Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Overstreet manages special-duty requests and said he begins to see those increase around Black Friday. Strip malls and banks are among the commonly requested locations for officers.
“A lot of stuff happens in the parking lots and not necessarily in the stores,” Overstreet said.
He said officers also see increases in panhandling and flim-flam schemes. Financial crimes and identity theft also increase.
Holiday burglaries vary by year. Some years there’s a large increase and others see very little change.
“You always see a bit of a spurt,” Young said.
November and December were 2011’s second- and fourth-highest months for burglaries. January and October ranked No. 1 and No. 3.
The holiday season provides a target-rich environment for crooks: presents on display in homes, more people away on vacations and get-togethers and the end of daylight saving time.
Young said the time change means it gets dark before the end of most people’s workday, which gives crooks more opportunities to slip in and out without being seen.