The Mt. Juliet Police Department and Lebanon Police Department will be ramping up patrols this holiday season to try and minimize the criminal activity that usually increases during this time of year. Measures will include plain-clothes officers and parking-lot surveillance towers.

As people race to the store for this year’s Black Friday deals, rates of certain types of crime typically go up. To prevent these statistics from creating victims, local law-enforcement agencies are ramping up patrols at highly-trafficked areas.

Increased boots on the ground is just one measure that police departments in Wilson County are taking to prevent holiday shoppers from becoming the latest victims to opportunistic criminals.

Mt. Juliet Police Department (MJPD) Public Information Officer Tyler Chandler, said that his agency will be providing extra attention in the city’s shopping areas as part of Operation Safe Shopper.

“Starting on Thanksgiving afternoon, Black Friday, and throughout the shopping season, more uniformed and undercover officers will be concentrated around Mt. Juliet’s Interstate-40 shopping destination,” Chandler said in an email Monday. “The initiative will run until Friday, Dec. 31.”

Chandler said that the operation is intended to provide a “safe, enjoyable experience,” while shopping for friends and loved ones in the lead up to the holidays.

As part of this operation, MJPD will be increasing patrols by uniformed officers and undercover officers, as well as deploying a mobile surveillance tower in parking lots.

Mt. Juliet is not the only city stepping up patrols to deal with the potential influx of criminals to the area. The Lebanon Police Department takes similar steps in town.

LPD Public Information Officer Lt. P.J. Hardy said that this “is something the department does every year.”

Hardy cited comparable solutions to the increased crime risks associated with holiday shopping. His department will be deploying non-uniformed officers in some of the more prominent shopping areas in Lebanon. LPD also uses parking-lot camera towers to monitor situations as they may emerge.

Additionally, there will be members of the community emergency response team (CERT) patrolling these areas. Hardy explained that this increased visibility will likely help deter crime.

According to reports from the national crime victimization survey, two specific types of crime increase throughout the holiday shopping season, robbery and personal larceny. These crimes increase by approximately 20% during December.

In a year-over-year examination conducted by the MJPD in the shopping centers housed by the highway, Providence Marketplace saw a 66% increase in the number of reported incidents from 2019 to 2020.

Meanwhile, north of Interstate-40, the Paddocks commercial space, which includes Lowe’s Home Improvement and Wal-Mart, actually saw a modest dip of 7% reported incidents from 2019 to 2020. However, it still outpaced Providence Marketplace in terms of totals reports.

Some tips for shopper safety during the holidays are similar to other times of the year, like reporting any suspicious or out-of-place behavior to police and staying alert and aware of surroundings.

However, because of the unique nature of holiday shopping, additional steps should be taken. Those include placing packages and purchases in the vehicle’s trunk or under seats and out of sight.

Paying with a credit card to avoid carrying large amounts of cash is also advised.

As for parking-lot safety tips, park in well-lit areas, never leave a vehicle unlocked, and if possible, shop with others to walk in groups.

If suspicious people or activity is observed in the parking lot or near a shopper’s unattended vehicle, it’s advised to go back into the store or to a populated area.

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