SPOKANE, Wash. -

It seems more people in Spokane are getting fed up with crime as many are stepping up to try to take criminals down, but Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich would rather people use their eyes -- not their hands -- to help combat crime.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office reports they are seeing more instances where a simple case of shoplifting or theft escalates when the thief brandishes a weapon to avoid being caught by loss prevention. They're worried concerned citizens may be putting themselves in harms way when they try to get involved.

In December an armed robber held up a Spokane grocery store. Surveillance video of the crime shows a customer lying on the ground while an employee decides to charge the suspect. It's this type of situation the sheriff's office doesn't want to see happen.

"Please do not actively get involved in a situation if you're a witness to a robbery or a shoplifter that's running out of a store," Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

Recently the sheriff has seen an increase in theft and shoplifting cases that have the potential to escalate.

"We're seeing things that we usually don't see on a regular basis but unfortunately, currently, we are seeing that more frequently and it's tough to say why," Chamberlin said.

While it's good that citizens want to help stop criminals deputies say stay hands off but eyes open; check for tattoos or distinguishing features on criminals.

"Maybe a birthmark, mole, something that would make this person stick out; vehicle information, that is priceless for us," Chamberlin said.

The sheriff's office, however, is not saying don't protect yourself or your family.

"Property can always be replaced; lives can not be replaced," Chamberlin said.

On the other hand, use common sense and some restraint.

"I've had incidents where people are asking, 'Someone just stole my car. Can I just shoot a couple of rounds into the air?' Do not do that. You will get yourself into hot water," Chamberlin said.

As for criminals, Chamberlin had a simple message for them: Someone is always watching you.

"We have citizens in our community that are outstanding, that help us out on a daily basis, so we will eventually find you," he said.

In all cases, the sheriff's office said that if you see a crime in progress, call 9-1-1 immediately.