KENNEWICK, Wash. - Some shoppers put in a lot of work to find the perfect gift, but let their guard down when they take it out the car.

This time of year car thieves thrive on shoppers who leave their expensive presents just sitting out in the car. Parking lots are packed, thieves can make a quick grab and blend right in with the crowd.

Christmas time means holiday shopping. Herds of customers head to places like Columbia Center Mall to pick up presents, and find great deals.

"We started having shoppers line up at the doors at 3:08 this morning. Since that point they've steadily been flowing into the mall," said Kim Harvey, Columbia Center Mall Director of Marketing.  

Shoppers load up their bags, drop them back off in the car and head back for round two. Some leave it right out in the open and Kennewick Police said that's just inviting burglars to break in and steal it.

"If there's an opportunity there that they can see it, they're going to take the chance," said Sgt. Mark Weber, Kennewick Police Department.

Volunteers like Marvin Marks are helping patrol Kennewick parking lots to prevent prowlers from stealing your holiday haul. He and other "Citizens Helping In Police Services" or C.H.I.P.S. would like to think they're making a difference.

"The year before we started this patrol, in Columbia Center alone, they had over 100 car prowls.  The first year we did it they had two. I think that's pretty good," said Marvin Marks, C.H.I.P.S. Volunteer.  

But police said if you want to keep your gift bags out of burglars hands, take initiative. Lock your doors, put gifts out of sight, keep your eyes open for suspicious activity and if you see some report it to police.

Another tip police offer shoppers as you're sifting through stores - keep your wallet, purse, or gifts close to you at all times. It's easy to get distracted and thieves don't need much to make off with your holiday stash.


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