Police across the country are advising Canadians to take a few extra precautions during the busy holiday season to avoid becoming a victim of crime.

Vancouver police are advising drivers in the city to be extra vigilant in preventing theft from their cars, as reports indicate that the number of thefts from vehicles has increased this year.

In total, there have been 7,498 reported thefts from vehicles in Vancouver this year. That’s 600 more compared to the same period in 2011, police said earlier this week.

However, police noted that the general trend for car thefts has been in decline over the past five to 10 years.

During the holiday season, Vancouver police will be taking extra efforts to patrol parking lots, but have several tips for drivers. Drivers should not leave any possessions in plain view and avoid making multiple trips to the car to unload new items, said police. They also suggest locking all items in the trunk.

“[Thieves are] going to walk around and if they see you leave something behind, they’ll take it. There are organized people, but they look for more tourist areas. The majority of our thefts are opportunist, seeking to make some money for drugs,” said Det. Phil Ens.

Police in Edmonton agree that the busy time of year provide thieves with increased opportunity to act.

“Thieves are always looking for quick and easy ways to get at valuables left in cars,” said Const. Thomas Froma in a statement. “Thefts from vehicles happen fast, at any time of the day and anywhere – but mall parking lots are especially attractive to thieves during the holiday season.”

Edmonton police recently toured the West Edmonton Mall parking lot with reporters to talk about how Edmonton residents can protect themselves from car theft. They say the most commonly stolen items from vehicles include bags, packages, iPods/MP3 players, GPS devices, laptops, cellphones, cameras and sunglasses.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, police recently launched a five-week holiday crime prevention campaign that targets the downtown area. During the campaign, officers will patrol the busy streets surrounding Yonge Street, home to many retailers, including the large Eaton Centre mall.

Insp. Howie Page said officers will be speaking with retailers and shoppers and distributing cards bearing crime prevention tips.

With the hustle and bustle of the season, distracted shoppers can easily fall victim to crime, he said.

“Be wary of con artists,” said Page. “Some divert your attention through distraction tactics. The best advice I could give is follow your best instincts. If something does not seem right, avoid that person or location. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

In a video posted to its website, Toronto police explain two different ways thieves can steal personal items in busy malls.

In the first re-enacted scenario, shoppers briefly leave their items unattended on a table while looking at a pair of shoes as a thief simply walks up and takes one of their purses.

In the second scenario, two males are eating at a food court table and a passerby knocks over their drink. As she helps the patrons clean up the drink, a man walks up and takes one of their bags.

This is called a distraction tactic and it’s not uncommon, said Sgt. Mike Josifovic.

“Actually, criminals do sit back and think of scenarios as to how and what they can do to distract you in order to take stuff from you,” said Josifovic in the video.

“The message here is always be aware of your surroundings, be aware of where your property is in relation to yourself,” he added. “That will prevent a lot of headaches for you down the line.”

With files from CTV British Columbia