CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As shoppers search for deals at local stores this holiday season, thieves will be shopping the parking lots.
Charleston police are offering some holiday shopping tips. Not where to find the best deals, but how they can protect their property.
It's as easy as just knowing what's going on around you, said Lt. Steve Cooper, Charleston assistant chief of detectives. Shoppers should trust their gut instincts and avoid those they feel are suspicious.
Another tip: Never leave anything in the back seat of a vehicle or park in the dark.
He said thieves look forward to big shopping days.
"When you're shopping, so are the criminals," Cooper said. "They're shopping for what's in your back seat. They're like the Grinch."
Thieves will check doors to see if they are locked, so make sure they are. Thieves typically don't want the attention that comes with breaking a window to get into a vehicle.
Cooper has interviewed a lot of suspects in his career and said thieves are often surprised at how few people lock their doors.
Brad Rinehart, South Charleston police chief, said the season brings "crimes of opportunity."
"The biggest thing is that people have to pay attention," Rinehart said. "They get up there, they get in the stores and they get tunnel vision.
"They need to be aware of their surroundings."
Electronics are a big grab, Apple products especially, but cellphones in particular have been a hot target item for years.
About 40 percent of robberies target cellphones, he said.
Charleston officers have taken reports of at least 250 cellphone thefts this year. That's only a little more than last year's total, which was 212.
"Cellphone theft has become the most common form of theft in the whole country," Cooper said. "These thieves are looking for people who just aren't paying close attention."
He said it's happened before to people eating lunch. A cellphone is placed on the table while the person eats or reads the paper and then a thief walks by and pockets the device. Just like that, it's gone.