The busy holiday shopping season also creates opportunities for criminals interested in separating shoppers from their Christmas gifts.

Police departments in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have released lists of tips to keep you and your property safe this year.

Sandy Springs Police recommend:

–         Stay alert and remaining aware of your surroundings.

–         Put all shopping bags in the trunk of your vehicle.

–         Park in a well-lit area.

–         Check around your car and look in the backseat before getting behind the wheel.

–         Lock your doors and windows at home, even if you step out for a few minutes.

–         Leave a light or a TV on so potential burglars will think you’re home.

–         Never hesitate to call 911 if you think something doesn’t look right.

Dunwoody Police recommend:

–         Take all of your valuables with you and lock your car when shopping or eating at a restaurant.

–         If you have valuable items that you can’t take inside a shop or mall with you, place them in your car trunk before you get to your destination. “Thieves will watch parking lots and notice if you are placing your purse, laptop bag, or other valuables in your trunk,” the department said.

–         Thieves will always target the people who look distracted, so be alert and pay attention.

–         Shop in groups of two or more people.

–         Don’t put your purse in your shopping cart. Thieves will try to distract you so they can lift your wallet or your purse when you’re not looking.

–         Don’t hang your purse on the back of your chair at restaurants. Don’t place expensive purchases to the side or your table. The best place to keep your purse is your lap, police say.

–         Place purchases beneath the table, near your feet.

Source: Sandy Springs and Dunwoody police departments.

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of