TAMPA, Fla. — It happens every year: someone’s presents end up under the wrong tree because thieves took advantage during the holiday shopping season.

Local police departments say they are stepping up anti-theft patrols, but there’s plenty you can do on your own to protect your gifts and valuables – and other people’s property as well.

“Just look out for one another, have some situational awareness, if you see something, say something. If something doesn’t look right either downtown or in your neighborhood or you see someone going up on your neighbor’s porch getting a package, it’s OK to call the police,” said St. Pete Police Sgt. Jason Deary.

“Make sure that you’re not looking directly at your phone when you come out, have situational awareness, pay attention to where you’re parking, don’t leave presents completely visible in your car or lock them in your trunk, and just have an idea of who’s around you," Sgt. Deary said. "If someone is getting too close, feel free to walk away, if you have an issue, go back in the store and you can let the manager know or you can call the police.”

“We’re living in a society where we’re very easily distracted by our devices and things like that and so we really want people to be paying attention,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. “We have to have everybody on alert this time of year, paying attention to their surroundings and know what’s going on.”

According to Clearwater police, things you can do to help protect yourself from would-be thieves include:

    • Always lock your car doors.
    • Never store valuables in plain sight inside your vehicle.
    • Don't ever leave your keys in your car.
    • Park in a well-lit area if you are shopping at night.
    • Don't be distracted by being on your cell phone or carrying too many packages that you can't see as you approach your car. Always be aware of your surroundings.
    • When you can, take a friend or family member with you.
    • Have your car keys in your hand when you near your vehicle.
    • Don't fumble around in your purse or clothing for your keys.

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