CLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – As businesses begin wrapping up day one of the holiday shopping season, local law enforcement officers are just getting started on holiday patrol operations.

As we enter one of the busiest holiday shopping weeks of the year, business owners say they’re not exactly expecting record breaking numbers. “For the last five years, we’ve seen a decline on actual foot traffic for Black Friday,” said Roberto Torres, a small business owner in Tampa Bay. “Moving more towards and e-commerce platform and seeing less and less people actually coming to their brick and mortar stores.”

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Torres expected to gain more foot traffic to follow as residents recognize Small Business on Saturday but says it’s been a challenge also keeping in mind a safe shopping environment. “We have kept all the guidelines, those typically match the CDC and then try to have contactless checkout, curbside and order ahead,” said Torres.

Even if the shopping numbers aren’t shattering records this year though, local law enforcement will act as if nothing has changed when it comes to their patrol numbers. “Statistically, if there’s less people you would think potentially less crime but we’re not looking at it from that standpoint, we look at it as the possibility that it could be the same statistical numbers from years past. We are just basically planning accordingly,” said Lieutenant Mike Ogliaruso with the Clearwater Police Department.

Lt. Ogliaruso tells CW44 News At 10 about a dozen or more officers per shift will monitor foot traffic at different popular locations like Clearwater Mall and Westfield Countryside. “All of our specialty units that we call are in play. We have some officers that are not in uniform, we do have bicycle officers, we have our traffic team that will assist with traffic around the busier intersections and then we have uniform presence,” said Lt. Ogliaruso.

Although police face some added challenges this year, like face coverings mixed with the potential for shoplifting, officers are making Covid adjustments. “Yeah, certainly that is a challenge, I mean everybody is wearing a mask but you know we just have to be more detailed with the physical description and clothing and stuff like that,” said Lt. Ogliaruso. He continues, “We’ve talked about coming to your car with large items and then securing them in your car and then going back into the mall. We’ve talked about some ideas, if you live locally to drive them back home and don’t leave a lot of stuff in your car. That’s something that I think shoppers should consider.”

The main goal for both business owners and patrol officers is a safe holiday shopping season. “First and foremost be safe, the ones that feel comfortable going out, supporting I think that’s important because a lot of businesses are hurting. But if there’s an opportunity to do it online or leave a review, all that stuff adds up,” said Torres.

Lt. Ogliaruso echos Torres’ sentiments, “We just anticipate a safe holiday. At Clearwater we pride ourselves at putting as many resources as we can to make the citizens safe and I think that’s what we’re going to accomplish this year.”

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Clearwater Police recommend:

++ Shop with others instead of shopping alone.

++ Park in a well-lit area if you are shopping at night.

++ Have your car keys in your hand as you approach your vehicle.

++ Don’t have your arms overloaded with packages that decrease your field of vision as you walk to your car.

++ Don’t be distracted on your cell phone as you walk from the store to your car.

++ Never store packages or other valuables in plain view inside your car. The trunk is your best option.

++ If you see something suspicious, say something. Call the Clearwater Police non-emergency line at 727-562-4242 to report anything suspicious.

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