Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Public safety

Tampa police to use RNC equipment at malls during holidays

TAMPA — Thousands of dollars in Republican National Convention spending could help police crack down on holiday crime.

The Tampa Police Department is taking mobile surveillance camera units, Segways and other nimble RNC vehicles to malls and shopping centers starting this week.

Parking lots are usually so full on Black Friday and the weeks before Christmas that police have used horses and motorcycles to get around. Now they'll also use their chariot-like T3 Motions and Bobcat 4x4 utility vehicles.

Police Capt. Ruben Delgado said it could cut down on officers' response times.

"It may mean the difference between somebody getting hurt or somebody's stuff getting stolen," he said.

The department also has surveillance cameras attached to tall poles on mobile trailers. Police plan to station them in areas attractive to shoplifters.

Officers will be able to watch live camera feeds on iPads, also purchased for the convention. The cameras can zoom in on faces and record for evidence.

Also, Tampa police have filmed a second humorous video after the success of their Call Me Maybe parody, which had more than 66,000 views as of Wednesday.

This one is sung to the tune of Deck the Halls and aims to educate shoppers on how to keep purchases secure. (Spoiler alert: It's by locking your car door.)

This video is much more polished than the previous parody, thanks to help from Steven Powell Productions and Mach 1 Productions, which donated their time to help produce the video.

"Shopping areas still have pockets of burglaries. Bags are stolen," Delgado said. "It's just a funny video and a way for us to get our message across."

In Pinellas County, sheriff's officials have developed detailed safety strategies for shoppers.

They recommend people park close to stores in well-lit areas and walk to and from the building alongside other shoppers.

Also, because thieves often target purses, women should keep their phones and keys in their pockets or attached to belts.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz offered shoppers the same traditional advice that so many still tend to ignore: lock the car doors, don't leave valuables in plain sight, place shopping bags in the trunk.

Puetz's officers have noticed at least one new holiday threat, though. More people are ordering gifts online, which means more packages are being delivered by shipping companies, such as FedEx and UPS.

Often, when drivers try to deliver those products, people aren't at home so the parcels are left outside.

Thieves, Puetz said, sometimes steal packages straight from doorsteps.

"In some situations," he said, "they may even be following the trucks around."

Puetz suggested that residents who know they won't be home at delivery time have the packages sent to neighbors or relatives.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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