By Joe Beck
Shoppers spilling into stores looking for bargains on the day after Thanksgiving may find police on patrol keeping a watch for something else: shoplifters, thieves and other property-related crimes.
Police forces in Winchester, Front Royal and Woodstock have all assigned extras officers to areas likely to see the heaviest shopping traffic in their communities on Thursday night and Friday.
"We'll be having four additional officers working up around the Wal-Mart retail area, just as visible presence to encourage everybody to be safe," said Woodstock Police Chief Eric Reilly.
People caught up in shopping may leave themselves vulnerable to others intent on stealing, law enforcement officials say.
It could be the driver who forgets to lock up a car and returns from a store to find newly purchased electronic devices and other valuables gone. Or maybe a shopper turns her back on a shopping cart in which she put a purse and has her day ruined by a thief who disappears with it into a swirling throng.
Front Royal Chief Norman Shiflett said extra officers will be "on the lookout for criminal activities," around the Kmart and Food Lion stores off John Marshall Highway.
"I would tell people not to leave their pocketbook in vehicles or their vehicles unlocked," Shiflett said.
Shiflett, Reilley and Winchester Police Department Crime Prevention Specialist Lauren Cummings also offered the following tips for shoppers to protect their property while shopping:
Reilley said his department will also be watching for motorists in need of help around Interstate 81.
"We don't expect any problems," Reilly said. "Obviously when you have increased shopping and great deals like on Black Friday, it's going to increase shopping, and it's going to increase traffic. We're just trying to discourage criminal activity."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org