Police-car-backThe start of the holiday shopping season arrives tonight with many stores opening early for Black Friday. Police are warning the potential for crime increases if shoppers aren’t careful.

Sioux City Police Officer Lori Noltze says people can reduce their risk of becoming a crime victim by following a few pieces of advice. “Do not leave purchased items or valuables inside your car, leave them in the trunk or keep them with you while you’re shopping,” Noltze said. “Crimes of opportunity often happen when the suspects can see your purse, the items you’ve purchased, or the belongings just sitting in the back seat of your car.”

While many Iowans may prefer shopping after dark, Noltze suggests those later times can also provide an opportunity for crime. “It’s better to shop when it’s busier, when there are more people out and you’re in a higher populated area,” Noltze said. “Also, try to park in a well lit area where there’s a lot of foot traffic and a lot of people see you coming and going from your vehicle.”

Shoppers are also advised to keep their receipts and report any unauthorized purchases on their credit or debit cards. “Also, keep track of your credit card company’s phone numbers. In the event that your cards are lost or stolen, you can contact them immediately,” Noltze said. “The sooner you can get (the card) canceled, the less likelihood of charges being placed on them.”

Lastly, Officer Noltze advises shoppers to have their vehicle keys ready when they return to the parking lot to load their packages and never leave a car unattended with the motor running or with the keys in the ignition.

Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City