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Expect an increased police presence in South Florida malls for the holiday shopping season

HIALEAH – It’s that time of year when South Florida Police Department are stepping up security in malls and business districts as we approach Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping season.

At the Westland Mall in Hialeah, Police Chief George Fuente and Mayor Esteban Bovo Jr. announced a special holiday-season crime suppression initiative that will run Friday through Dec. 31 and will include K-9 units, the Community Response Team, motorcycle officers and undercover officers in a task force that will focus on protecting the city’s business district.

Fuente told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that there will be “a high level of visibility” from police officers to protect and serve the community. “The task force’s primary goal is to ensure the well-being of shoppers during the holiday season.”

Bovo said, “This isn’t California. This isn’t New York or Illinois. We don’t allow people to go into the stores and rip stuff off as aggressively as possible to make sure you’re prosecuted.”

Fuente shared a number of safety tips.

“Always try to park in well-lit areas and always carry credit cards, not cash. For people who like to carry large wallets, this may not be the time,” Fuente said. “Minimize what you carry and try to put credit cards in your pocket. Always stay alert. When going from the store to your cars, avoid taking items to your car and then going back to the store. It’s an invitation to someone to break into your car. If possible, shop with family members and friends. Don’t be alone.”

At the busy Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater, Lt. Jonathan Arche took CBS4 to the mall and told us: “We have increased our security as we do at this time of year. We have many police officers working this holiday season. We are working with multiple agencies to maintain the peace and tranquility of this mall.”

“There will be plainclothes officers and you won’t even see them,” he said. “You should make sure you park in a well-lit area as this will deter potential criminals from getting to your vehicle. We have a lot of people who like to shop a lot with big bags and shop a lot of items and bring them back to the car. We advise against it.” He urges buyers not to make many trips back and forth to their cars.

Carmen and Walter Taylor agreed.

Carmen Taylor said: “I shop with my husband and instead of carrying a handbag I carry this backpack. Don’t disclose a lot of cash. Use maps instead. Travel as a couple if you can and try to shop during the day. If you shop at night, park in a well-lit area.”

Walter Taylor said: “Always keep your eyes open and look around. Always put items in your trunk and make sure you don’t leave anything in the back seat for people to look at because if they see something, it gives them an opportunity to break in and run off with your belongings.”

Carmen and Walter Taylor, who are from Houston, visited Dolphin Mall during their honeymoon.

Walter Taylor said, “You can never be too careful.”

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