SAN DIEGO (CNS) - As shoppers flocked to stores Friday to hunt for bargains, so did crooks looking to take advantage of distracted victims.

Black Friday marked the start of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's Holiday Watch program, aimed at increasing patrols throughout neighborhoods, malls, on trolleys and trains, and other hot spots for criminal activity during the Christmas season. The program will run through New Year's Day.

"Criminals do not take holidays off and neither will our deputies," Sheriff Bill Gore said.

Undercover operations will be used in conjunction with uniformed patrols and deputies will work with the San Diego County Probation Department and state parole agents to identify career criminals and repeat offenders who may be in violation of the terms of their release, Gore said.

Crime prevention specialists and senior patrol volunteers will also hand out fliers at command posts outside shopping areas, Gore said.

Shoppers can report suspicious activity by calling the sheriff's department at (858) 565-5200.