SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - 'Tis the season for all to start thinking about the holidays, and for many, holiday shopping.
As the crowds of shoppers start heading to Savannah businesses, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police want to ensure that it's a safe environment for all.
Metro will be implementing "Jingle Bell Patrol," which is an effort to increase patrols in areas where shoppers are most vulnerable.
Patrol officers from all five precincts have been assigned overtime hours to patrol areas where police think thieves are most likely to strike. That includes the busy downtown shopping areas, like Broughton Street and City Market.
The Jingle Bell Patrol has produced some positive numbers. From 2013 to 2014, the special patrols helped cut car break-ins down over the holiday season by 26 percent - and that's exactly what downtown business owners like to hear.
"I think it inspires a lot of confidence, not only in the people that are out shopping, but also the business owners, and Savannahians in general. So, it's always a great thing to see the police around and interacting with the citizens, and we welcome it," said Ruel Joyner, Downtown Business Association.
Savannah-Chatham Metro Police say the special "Jingle Bell Patrols" don't happen at the flip of a switch. This is a gradual roll out of patrols and manpower, that's now about ten days in.
"We will be out in strength and numbers to assure that this is a safe holiday season," said Maj. Larry Branson, SCMPD.
Maj. Branson says the "Jingle Bell Patrol" is all about your safety as you head to do some shopping, or just take in the sights of Savannah during the holidays. The holiday patrol will also be keeping a watchful eye on stores, like the Smoke Shop on East Congress.
"We have definitely seen an increase in business already. And it hasn't even gotten that close to Christmas yet," said Patrick Stillwaggon, clerk. "I think that's great for us especially. We've had a couple of thefts here in the last couple of months. We lost a sign, we lost a laptop. So hearing that they are ramping up walking around downtown, that's good for us."
Police say they'll be very visible around stores, and blend in with the crowds in some areas.
"One of the key ingredients of the Jingle Bell Patrol is being able to be flexible. We will be on foot patrols, and people love to see our officers walking by. We will be on bicycles, we will be on Segways. We will be in the cars so we can cover larger areas," said Maj. Branson
But Maj. Branson adds there is a lot to be said for being aware of your surroundings, and being safe.
"We want folks to be safe. When they come out, to lock your car. Stow your valuables away so that they're not seen. Ideally, remove all of the valuables from your car. Be careful when you're walking out to your car after you've been making purchases. Don't have your bags stacked so high that you can't see where you're going or that anybody's approaching you. And just be aware of your surroundings," said Maj. Branson.
Police also suggest shopping in groups, parking in well-lit areas and to report any suspicious activity right away.