PARAMUS, N.J. (CBS 2) — As people in the Tri-State area continue to purchase holiday gifts, police are warning shoppers to be wary of purse-snatchers and pickpockets in full gear — ready to strike in an instant.

Detective Dave Lagrone is tasked with keeping the residents of Paramus safe in an undercover police car. He told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan of some of the tactics often used by thieves.

“They’re pretty smart…they’ll target certain stores — maybe where there’s a lot of mothers with children — because they’re distracted,” Lagrone said.

Lagrone also offered some advice to shoppers.

“With the purses especially keep them tucked under your arm — don’t leave it out of your sight. If you have a stroller, don’t leave it hanging on the back of the stroller or under the stroller,” he said.

“I would like to be extra cautious, I can’t say I always am,” Saddle River resident Christina Nemet said.

Nemet and other moms Sloan talked to said it was easy to get distracted with the little ones.

To prevent becoming a victim of a drive-by purse-snatcher, police said bags shouldn’t be carried loosely. Instead, they should be pulled toward the front of the body and away from moving traffic.

Police said thieves were even hitting bathrooms in stores.

“People would come in, they would hang their pocket book…on the back of the door in the bathroom. Someone would come in and just reach over the stall and remove the pocket book,” Paramus Police Detective Lieutenant Robert Guidetti said.

The bottom line is that thieves don’t care whether it is a private or public place. Police said shoppers always need to be aware of their surroundings — even when they feel safe.

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