TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Operation Shopper Chopper is in full swing. Tuscaloosa Police are flying helicopters above malls and shopping centers in an effort to deter crime for the holiday season.

Lillian Griffin says she is glad police pilots will be looking for criminals from the air to keep her safe, she spent Friday afternoon shopping for Christmas gifts.

“That does make things feel safer because there’s lots of shootings and crazy things that happen during the holidays and that makes me feel better being outside knowing we have other protection more than just on the ground,” she said.

From Thanksgiving through Jan. 2, helicopters will fly over local malls and shopping centers between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. at night. The three police aircraft are outfitted with a spotlight and high-tech cameras including an infrared thermal camera that can record video day and night.

Tuscaloosa Pilot Jerret Ivey says Shopper Chopper makes a big difference every year.

“If we catch you, you will suffer the consequences we’ve done this program a long time and we will continue to do it because it is successful, and it is a great tool and I think the citizens of Tuscaloosa appreciate the fact that we are out there with the extra patrols trying to deter crime,” he said.

Ivey says police look for thieves going through the parking lot pulling on car door handles like they are trying to find unlocked cars. Police encourage shoppers to still be aware of their surroundings, lock their car doors, and keep valuables out of sight. The “Shopper Chopper” operation has been used by police for more than 20 years.