Gainesville Police go 'undercover' this holiday season

- The next time you go shopping, the Gainesville Police Department wants you to play a game they call “Spot the Cop.” The department launched the program last holiday season after a rash of shopping-related crimes, including car break-ins and purse thefts.

To cut down on the crime, Gainesville police officers went “undercover” by posing as shoppers and driving unmarked vehicles through shopping center parking lots.

According to Sgt. Kevin Holbrook, the effort cut down on crime dramatically and the department launched a similar effort this holiday season.

“We know that people are going to be busy. Their minds are elsewhere,” explained Sgt. Holbrook. “We want them to have a great holiday season. You know, we don’t want that Grinch to step in and ruin their holidays. So, therefore we’re taking the extra steps, the extra precautions to ensure that they have a good, safe one. We don't want anyone to be a victim no matter what time of year it is, but especially this time of year.”

The police department has shared their plans on social media so they can try to deter criminals from targeting Gainesville shoppers.

"One of our main priorities was we did not want to be secretive.  We wanted the criminals to know that we were going to be out in force. That we were going to be conducting these type of details to let them know that they cannot do their business here in Gainesville."

Sgt. Holbrook said they use crime data to determine where to assign their plainclothes officers and will also have special patrols at community events.

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