Deputies warn holiday shoppers to be aware

TAMPA - Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies are beginning heightened holiday shopping patrols, as well as warning shoppers to be vigilant.

"People will leave phones in the center consoles.  They'll leave GPS's up on the dashboard.  That, again, is an attraction," said Col. Donna Luscyznski.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies patrolled the Citrus Park Mall parking lot Tuesday, reminding shoppers to be aware of their surroundings.  They stopped one woman who left her car unlocked.

ABC Action News did the same.

We waited at a white van for thirty minutes after spotting a large shopping bag in the front seat. When the driver, Allison Lee, returned from shopping, she admitted she had no idea the bag sent a message to criminals.

"I thought it was safe here.  It's not like New York," Lee said.  "I will not do that anymore.  Thank you for warning me."

While we were waiting for Lee, however, we spotted another common mistake.  A woman walking to her car, so distracted by her cell phone, she didn't even see us.

"You scared me," Karen Bonilla laughed.  "It didn't even cross my mind.  I mean, no."

It's a common mistake, according to law enforcement.

"We don't want you walking out to your car, being distracted, going through your bags, fumbling around, not paying attention to who is around you and coming behind you," Col. Luscyznski said.

"We don't want you to put yourself at risk so that you can't go home to your family and friends. It's not worth it over a couple Christmas presents."

There are dozens of Black Friday deals, sales, ads, tips, tricks, and surprises in the ABC Action News 2012 Black Friday Shopping Guide. See the entire shopping guide at

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