Dothan, AL (WSFA) - In the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, a quick trip to the store can easily become a hectic chore.
And with that added stress, having your purse or packages stolen can quickly put a damper on your Christmas spirit.
Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes said, "You see a lot of thugs and criminals out during this time of year because they know people are vulnerable. They know people are carrying large amounts of cash, and they know the vehicles are going to have high-end type items that people are purchasing for presents."
Hughes says shopping centers and malls are a playground for thieves this time of year, and because of that, shoppers need to take precautions to stay safe and out of harm's way.
One thing the Sheriff says is never to leave anything of value visible in your car. If you must leave things behind, keep them out of sight, either under the seat or in the trunk.
"If somebody is going to break into your car, they're really going to have to make an effort, plus they can't just walk by the car and see what type of packages you've got, " Hughes said.
Other tips he has are to be aware of your surroundings, don't carry large amounts of cash, park as close as possible to the store you're visiting and in a well lit location, have your keys ready when you're returning to your car, and keep your purse secure.
Shoppers in Dothan say, staying safe is always in the back of their minds.
Arthur Ryans said, "Safety is especially important for my wife and my 7-year-old girl. We have to keep an eye on her."
Angie Smith said, "I try to look around and be very aware of people in the parking lot."
Kendra Thomas said, "It's important to be aware because you don't know what'll happen especially with all the craziness going on and everybody spending so much money. "
So as you're making your list and checking it twice, authorities urge you to put safety at the top.
Both the Sheriff's Office and Police Department have stepped up patrols around shopping areas to help deter these thefts.