Keep your stuff off of holiday thieves’ shopping list

Getty Images File PhotoWith holiday shopping officially kicking off tomorrow

Shoppers will swarm San Francisco’s downtown shopping district on Black Friday looking for a steal — but so will thieves.

Police and merchants say they’ll be keeping a close eye on The City’s shops and streets in response to an increase in robberies in recent years.

Last month, officers from the police stations that patrol Union Square and Westfield San Francisco Centre met with the Union Square Business Improvement District and the nonprofit group San Francisco Safe to discuss public safety leading up to the bustling holidays.

While the sidewalks, shops and eateries are packed with shoppers, thieves will be looking to swipe cellphones and gifts, police say.

“We want shoppers to be vigilant, be aware of their surroundings and stay off their electronic devices if they can,” police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy said.

Police also warn against leaving gifts unattended in vehicles, as criminals have been known to watch shoppers in parking garages.

And authorities are asking merchants to be vigilant and share information about shoplifting and organized retail theft, which includes teams of thieves who steal items from stores and sell them on the streets or at flea markets.

Shoppers can rest assured that police will be monitoring the streets in full force, said Karin Flood, executive director of the business district. Some cops will be in uniform, while others will be in everyday clothing. Shyy said police will deploy a command van at Market and Powell streets in order to make a statement and respond swiftly to criminal activity.

And Union Square will be monitored by red-jacketed ambassadors helping visitors find their way and looking out for thieves, Flood said.

“The safety ambassadors have radios that are directly in contact with police,” she said.

But if you do fall victim to theft, authorities say there are simple steps you can take to prevent the illegal sale of your stolen item. The online database LeadsOnline allows you to report a stolen item so that it becomes more difficult to sell on the black market. Item descriptions, serial numbers, photographs and scanned receipts help law enforcement identify which items are being illegally sold, police said.

The website has partnered with eBay to make stolen items difficult to hock.

“EBay automatically uploads all of its transactions into the Leads database,” according to police.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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