As holiday shoppers flocked to the South Hill Mall on Black Friday and the weekend following, the Puyallup Police Department turned its focus to preventing car theft.
Every year around the holidays, Puyallup Police Department Capt. Scott Engle says the department sees a spike in reported vehicle prowls, break-ins and thefts.
“We have a lot of people (who shop) at the South Hill Mall and the downtown Fred Meyer,” Engle said. “Our numbers go up at this time. (Shoppers) don’t think about when they throw (gifts) in the back seat that someone can come along and potentially steal (them).”
There are steps shoppers can take to prevent break-ins, and the department shared them at its 11th annual Not in Puyallup Emphasis campaign at the South Hill Mall on Nov. 26.
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About 15 volunteers from the Puyallup Kiwanis and Emerald Ridge High School Key Club assisted members of the police department in placing around 1,000 notices on windshields of cars in the mall’s parking lot.
The notices encouraged shoppers: “Don’t be a Victim — NOT in Puyallup,” and listed preventative steps shoppers can take. Among the tips were to install steering wheel locking devices, install vehicle tracking systems, park in well-lit locations and avoid isolated areas and to remember to remove all valuables.
The holiday season is the main time we do (the Emphasis) because a lot of people are out doing their holiday shopping and leave packages in their cars.
Lisa Isaacs, crime prevention coordinator for the Puyallup Police Department
“The holiday season is the main time we do it because a lot of people are out doing their holiday shopping and leave packages in their cars,” said Lisa Isaacs, crime prevention coordinator for the Puyallup Police Department. “We do (the emphasis) in areas that seem to have an increased amount of problems (with thefts).”
So far in 2016, 585 vehicle prowls and 280 vehicle thefts have been reported, said Isaacs. In 2015, the department responded to 647 auto prowls and 303 vehicle thefts.
The statistics are down, said Engle, but the campaign helps to keep them that way.
“We did car inspections through the entire mall lot,” Engle said about the Nov. 26 campaign. “Sometimes (shoppers) leave packages, purses, stuff like that.”
There were no reported auto prowls the day of the Emphasis, said Isaacs, and only one on Sunday.
“We had a lot people talk to (us) and inquire what was happening and thank us for being there,” Isaacs said. “There was really positive feedback.”
Engle and Isaacs also posted a live Facebook video of the emphasis to get the word out online, too. Isaacs demonstrated how using a steering wheel lock and a cargo cover are some of the ways shoppers can protect their belongings.
“We want to make the holiday shopping season safe,” Engle said, adding that the campaign also focuses on getting impaired drivers off the road.
The police department will hold a second Not in Puyallup Emphasis in the South Hill Mall parking lot this Saturday (Dec. 10). The mall agreed to place notices on the tables at the food court with more information on how to prevent vehicle break-ins and thefts.