By Kate Merrill

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s the time of year for giving, but many use it for taking.

Police say shoplifting has been on the rise this December, and WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill got a first-hand look at how officers bust people looking for a five-finger discount.

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In Bedford, Sgt. Paul Saunders is on the shopping patrol, specifically for shoplifting.

“We come into the lot and patrol the perimeter,” he said. “The goal is to prevent crime, prevent it from starting.”

Several Bedford shopping spots are right near a highway exit, making it a hot bed for thieves.

On Tuesday, Saunders says a woman was caught stealing from The Paper Store. He told her she was being recorded, but she confessed to shoplifting anyway.

Bedford is adding extra patrols in parking lots, on the sidewalks and in the stores.

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As WBZ-TV rides along with Saunders, he spots a waiting car outside a store, a tactic often used by teams of shoplifters.

“I saw the lights on, I saw your record,” Saunders tells the driver.

But a quick conversation proves no threat, and Saunders moves on. He admits it’s those small interactions that can make a real difference and fix a big problem.

“The folks in the store feel extra safe and loss prevention has dropped off dramatically,” Saunders said.

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Kate Merrill