As many head out early Friday for after-Thanksgiving Day sales, the criminally minded will use the busiest shopping day of the year as an opportunity to take advantage of the unsuspecting.
Area law enforcement officials advise shoppers to be alert, be aware of their surroundings and use common sense.
Bruce Frazier, Dalton Police Department public relations specialist, said Thanksgiving through Christmas marks the peak of the retail season.
"It is the busiest time of the year," Frazier said. "People get so busy they let their guard down."
One way to stay safe is to be aware of your surroundings, said Chattanooga police spokeswoman officer Rebecca Royval. She said knowing what is going on around you is key to avoiding problems. She also recommends shopping with someone.
"Go with a partner," said Royval, "There is strength in numbers."
Frazier said women should always carry their purses and not leave them in their shopping carts.
"Don't even turn around without your purse," Frazier said. "It only takes a second for your purse to be grabbed."
Royval suggested leaving the purse at home and carrying only the essentials that can fit in your pocket.
Don't make it easy for would-be thieves by leaving purchases visible in your car. Instead, put valuables and recent purchases in the trunk or out of sight. And keep your vehicle secure.
"Always lock your car," Bradley County Sheriff's Office spokesman Bob Gault said. "A majority of the auto break-in calls we receive in Bradley County are for cars that are left unlocked."
Gault said people often leave personal electronics, purses, and other valuables inside their vehicles.
Royval suggested that if you don't feel comfortable walking to your car to ask have someone escort you. She said the area malls have security guards who can help.
She also said to park in a well lit area and make a mental note of where you parked.
Frazier advised having your keys ready when you leave a store. He also advised walking with confidence and making eye contact with anyone who passes.
If you are the victim of a crime, call 911.