SAFE SHOPPING: Holiday shopping task force in full gear

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Holiday shoppers are going to be out and about over the next few weeks, and one Eastern Carolina police force says they've doubled their patrolling to ensure a safe holiday season.

Friday marks the start of Jacksonville's 20th year of the holiday shopping task force.

Police officers will increase patrolling at shopping centers, doubling the number of officers on duty in the city during peak shopping times.

They say, their increased presence is meant to deter people from breaking into cars as well as other shopping-related crimes. Police also say the potential for crashes increases at this time year, especially parking lot fender benders. They are asking people to be cautious, and mindful of the heavy holiday traffic.

"Being in Jacksonville, a military town, we've got folks from 50 states with driving habits from 50 states here in the area, so things that are understood in another area may not be implemented here in North Carolina," said Sgt. Ashley Potter. "So we always have a lot of vehicle crashes, but when you're in the parking lot with a high volume of folks trying to get in shopping all at the same time of day, it seems there are increased risks"

Additionally, police will be out to deter the threat of theft. They say, shoppers should always lock their cars, park in well lit areas, conceal all belongings in the truck or move them out of plain sight. Officers also say people should hold purses and wallets close to their bodies or conceal them.

The task force will run through New Year's Eve.