Stephenville residents planning to do a little shopping this holiday season should be careful and avoid making themselves targets for criminals.

“The most important thing to remember is to be alert and pay attention,” said Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant. “There are thieves out there who make their living taking items and money from people, and they really prey on shoppers during the shopping season.

“The main thing is to be aware of your surroundings. Know what is going on around you in the parking lot, as you walk to the store or mall and once you are inside. If you are alert, you are a lot less likely to be made a victim.”

Other tips the sheriff recommends include:

• Make sure your car is locked when you leave it.

• Never leave packages you’ve purchased in plain view in the car or vehicle. Put them in the trunk or make sure they are out of sight before you leave the vehicle.

• Never leave a purse, wallet or other valuables in the car.

• Do not leave a purse in a shopping cart unattended and never walk around with your purse open. Bryant said it is easy for someone to reach in and take out a wallet or check book while a shopper’s attention is diverted. He also recommends carrying a purse over the shoulder, across the body.

• When trying on clothes, do not leave a purse or wallet unattended in the dressing room.

• Do not carry a lot of cash and do not flash cash around when you are paying for an item. Be discreet about the amount of cash you carry.

Tommy Bryant is the sheriff of Erath County.