With the holiday shopping season approaching and Black Friday only days away, the Fort Dodge Police Department is offering advice to shoppers to help keep them safe while looking for that perfect gift for their loved ones.
In addition, Police Chief Tim Carmody said officers with both the Police Department and Fort Dodge/Webster County Reserve Unit will be conducting extra patrols throughout the city's retail areas starting by 7 p.m. Thursday.
"Officers will focus on proactive patrol, traffic control and providing assistance to shoppers in the community," Carmody said.
Those patrols will continue into Black Friday.
"It is our greatest hope that all the shoppers out on Thanksgiving and Black Friday will have a great shopping experience," he said. "(But) as with every shopping season, there are those in every community that would take advantage of this opportunity for criminal purposes."
Carmody said the department will be out to prevent that from happening.
At the same time, he added that shoppers can also help themselves and the community stay safe by paying attention to their surroundings.
"There are several things that shoppers can do to contribute to communitywide and individual safety while enhancing their personal shopping experience," he said.
To help, Carmody said the National Crime Prevention Council offers a few tips to help make shopping experiences safe for everyone.
Those items include planning ahead, reporting suspicious activity to police and having keys ready by the time shoppers reach their vehicle.
Carmody also suggested keeping packages in an out-of-sight location, such as a trunk or covered area.
He added that if shoppers have children with them, they should have a plan in the event they get separated. If a child goes missing, Carmody said, store employees should be notified immediately. He also suggested that parents tell their children if they become lost to find a store employee or police officer for help.
Carmody said several officers have come together to help plan for the shopping season and to make sure everything runs smoothly.
He added that this is also advice that can be used year-round.
"The great thing about the safety tips is that they can be used throughout the year," he said. "but are especially impactful during the busy holiday shopping season."