FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - With less than two weeks until Christmas, thousands of people are looking for the perfect gift to give their loved ones. But while you're shopping for that special someone, local law enforcement and businesses are urging people to shop local and shop safe.
"We always try to encourage our citizens to be aware of the surrounding and situationally aware when they're out in public, when they're out shopping because unfortunately sometimes criminals use this occasion to try to victimize folks who aren't paying attention," said Major Mike Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff's Office.
Major Nunn said while they urge people to take more precaution, businesses around town are doing the same
"Local businesses around town will hire off duty police officers to be there and to help out with the situation," said Major Nunn.
Tiffany Thomas is the owner of T Thomas Art in downtown Florence. The shop is filled with art handmade by locals artists in Florence. She is just one of many small business owners who encourage people to shop locally.
"I feel like people are more about supporting local businesses so, they've been coming in and buying soaps and like scarfs and different things made by local artisans so it's really cool," said Thomas.
While Thomas doesn't hire off duty officers, she does take extra precautions during the holidays.
"Most of the time we try to be friendly and open and just watch out for the customer," said Thomas. "One things that we do is walk our customers to the car if it's dark outside and if they feel like they just want extra precaution."
Major Nunn said criminals scope out who they will target prior to the assault and body language plays a big part of that.
"If I can see folks walking around distracted, with ear buds in their ear or headphones not paying attention of testing or talking on the telephone while they're walking that's the type of person the criminal wants to take advantage of."
Major Nunn said being aware of your surroundings is the most important thing you can do to stay safe during the holidays.
"If you are situationally aware, if you are looking people in the eye, if you're walking with a purpose… if you spot people first and look them in the eye, the criminal is going to say well you know what they don't pass the interview," said Major Nunn.
Along with shopping safe, the Florence County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement is urging people to drive safe. There will be an increase in law enforcement presence at various areas in the Pee Dee to discourage reckless driving.