Shopping Safety

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It's the time of year for a little holiday spirit and a lot of holiday spending. Unfortunately, Panama City police say it's also the time of year for robberies and shoplifters.

"Calls for service goes up dramatically this time of year. Normally robberies go through the roof ‘cause there's such a crime of opportunity," says Sgt. Bobby Harwell of Panama City Police.

Sgt. Hartwell says there are opportunities for a criminal to take advantage of you at every store and parking lot in town. Even the most experienced shoppers are a little apprehensive. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cut down on your chances of being victimized.

"Don't leave your packages in plain view, even in the car. It's best to lock your stuff in the trunk. Pay attention to your surroundings in parking lots. Hold your purse tightly. Don't let it sit in the buggy. Just it being there makes people do it," says Sgt. Hartwell.

If someone does take off with your holiday goods, don't automatically assume that's the last you'll see of it. Sgt. Hartwell says you'd be surprised how many times they catch shoplifters and robbers.

"Believe it or not we have very high clearance rate. Much higher than the national average. The sooner we get to a crime scene the better," says Sgt. Hartwell.

Sgt. Hartwell says you should call police as soon as you realize someone has stolen your possessions. Do not leave the scene of the crime and do not call store security. Call police first.

If you want more tips on staying safe this holiday season log on to