More shoppers out during the holidays means more opportunities for shoplifting and thefts, according to Reynoldsburg police Lt. Scott McKinley.

More shoppers out during the holidays means more opportunities for shoplifting and thefts, according to Reynoldsburg police Lt. Scott McKinley.

"This time of year, we see shoplifting arrests go up from what we see typically the rest of the year," he said. "We have had more this year, there's no doubt, and some are multiple arrests with the same situation."

Community liaison officer Scott Manny said the department is gearing up for a busy season. Seven volunteer officers will cruise business districts throughout the city, including Taylor Square, over the next few weeks. In addition, he said, he maintains e-mail contact with a number of block watch captains who keep an eye out for crime in various neighborhoods.

Manny said theft is the No. 1 crime police are concerned with during this time of the year.

"Theft from vehicles definitely increases this time of year at major shopping venues, such as Walmart and Home Depot, places like that," he said. "They have such huge parking lots and it unfortunately affords that criminal element the opportunity to see a lot of cars quickly without being noticed."

Both officers said common sense is key to prevention.

"This time of year, there are more people out shopping and that offers more opportunity for thefts and shoplifting to occur," McKinley said. "Like anyone else, criminals want to get gifts for the holidays and so that means they have go out and commit a theft to get them."

He said more people carry around more merchandise and cash, which equates to more opportunity for robbery or theft.

"If you look at it from the criminal standpoint, what they are looking for is the quickest easiest access to something to steal," Manny said. "Anything that looks of value should be put in the trunk of the car, and keep wallets and purses secured and close to yourself. Don't carry a lot of cash or a high number of credit cards -- in other words, carry the bare minimum."

Manny said thieves are looking for unlocked cars or valuables in plain view such as laptop computers, gifts, shopping bags and GPS systems.

"Criminals are doing a quick scans of cars through parking lots to see what they can find right away in a car," he said. "A smash-and-grab can happen in seconds if they see a $600 laptop computer, it might be worth smashing that window stealing it and be gone."

Shoppers who who sees someone who looks suspicious near their vehicles should not go near the vehicles, he said.

"Fortunately, the one-on-one, person-to-person type crimes, the strong-arm robberies, are a lot less frequent, but what we see the majority of is theft from vehicles," he said. "You can call police or go back in the store, and use the buddy system as much as possible. If you don't have that opportunity to have a buddy system, try to walk out with someone else nearby."

Manny said residents should call police if they see anything that seems strange.

"Definitely call about people who are walking through a parking lot looking into cars, anything out of the ordinary definitely give us a call that gut feeling tells you something," he said. "We've had major crimes solved by just innocuous information. You just never know."

Theft from a vehicle is a minimum first-degree misdemeanor for anything valued at less than $500. Anything above that is a felony, he said.

Being convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The sentence for a felony conviction is determined by a judge.

dowen@thisweeknews.com