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Shopping Security Set For Holidays

November 23,2005 – If potential criminals see police officers hanging around the Jacksonville Mall or in shopping centers, the less likely they are to commit crimes.”Police presence and high visibility are the best tactics we have to deter criminal activity,” said Jacksonville police Capt. Leonard Pullicino. “Besides, it makes the shopping public feel safer.”

It’s why the Jacksonville Police Department puts the Holiday Task Force in action as soon as the shoppers start to flood area stores.

Officers will begin patrolling – on foot, on bikes and in cars – the Jacksonville Mall and area shopping centers beginning at 7 a.m. Friday – the day known as the largest shopping day of the year. Plain clothes officers will also walk through stores keeping an eye out for shoplifters. The task force will operate during the times stores are open and will be in effect until Jan. 2, Pullicino said.

“Officers, who will be paid, are volunteering off-duty hours to participate in the task force,” Pullicino said.

The additional police presence will be a welcome sight to some people, especially after hearing about the 20-year-old who shot up a Tacoma, Wash., mall last weekend and took four hostages.

Bruce Lanier Sr. of Chinquapin isn’t afraid when he shops at the Jacksonville Mall. Most of the time he feels safe. But after hearing about the shooting in Tacoma, Lanier said, it made him stop and think. “It could put fear in you,” Lanier said. “It’s just the times.”

Lanier said he doesn’t feel quite as safe in Kinston and is willing to make the 30-minute drive to shop in Jacksonville.

He knows there are more people in the mall during the holidays and that crime can happen. He tries to pay more attention this time of year. “I do try,” he said, pulling in close the bags of stuff he already purchased.

Police officers will be concentrating their efforts at the mall, New River Shopping Center, Cross Point Shopping Center, Highland Crossing Shopping Center, Western Plaza, Brynn Marr Shopping Center, Piney Green Shopping Center and New Market Square, Pullicino said.

The mall will also provide additional security. Security officers, dressed in white shirts and dark pants, will be patrolling inside and in the parking lot, said Anastasia Paszkiewicz, marketing director at the mall.

Mall customers and merchants who don’t want to walk to vehicles in the dark can ask a security officer for assistance, Paszkiewicz said.

Pullicino urges people to be aware of their surroundings and to consider the following tips when shopping:

– Park in well-lit areas.

– Shop in groups.

– Conceal packages in trunks.

– Report suspicious people lurking in parking lots.

– Carry bags or purses in your hands rather than on your shoulder or back.

– Don’t put purses in shopping carts.

– Cash carriers should be discreet. Don’t flash money when purchasing gifts.
Contact staff writer Roselee Papandrea at [email protected] or at 353-1171, Ext. 238.

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