Undercover officers and helicopters will be watching over bargain hunters during this Black Friday in an effort to stamp out the annual chaos that turns America’s malls into potential war zones every holiday season.
The day after Thanksgiving, millions of customers wait outside their favorite retailers for the first day of the Christmas gift shopping season.
When big-box stores opened their doors early in the past, people have been trampled to death by the large crowds and shoppers have been injured fighting each other to get the best Black Friday deals.
This year, police in cities across the country are announcing new security measures to deter criminal activity and ensure public safety.
On Monday, the Mt. Juliet Police Department in Tennessee announced Operation Safe Shopper would begin Thursday and run through the end of the year to “reduce response time and give a more visible presence.”
During that time, the department will deploy more officers in and around the major shopping areas in town. Investigative units will also be conducting undercover enforcement operations, with officers on the lookout for “suspicious or unsafe behavior” during the holiday.
Since Operation Safe Shopper began in 2010, there has not been a major theft or violent crime incident in the shopping areas on Black Friday, according to Captain Tyler Chandler.
Police in Nashville will take to the skies, with helicopter pilots being told to watch parking lots at malls for “sightings of suspicious activity,” according to the Tennessean. Officers will use a Skycop camera trailer, which will allow them to zoom in to watch specific shoppers.
A recent report from Reviews.org ranks Tennessee as the state with the highest chance for Black Friday violence.
On Wednesday, the Gloucester Township Police Department in Camden, New Jersey issued a statement letting shoppers know there will be undercover police among the large crowds Friday.
“Your search for the ultimate deal this Friday will be safe as Gloucester Township Police undercover officers will be waiting in lines with you as you purchase that special item,” police said, according to CBS News. “Our officers will be throughout the community both in uniform and undercover to keep you safe this holiday season.”
Overland Park Police Department will also have undercover police officers at the Oak Park Mall in Kansas on Black Friday, according to KSHB.
The mall has also installed more than 140 cameras in and outside the property to identify shoplifters. The cameras are able to zoom in on license plates with great detail, which are then sent to the police.
Commander Roy Jones of the Simi Valley Police Department in California also said there will be increased police presence from uniformed and undercover officers at shopping centers during during the holiday season, according to the Ventura County Star.
Captain Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office warned shoppers not to leave expensive items in their cars, saying thieves lurk in parking lots to break into parked cars.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office also advised shoppers to park their vehicles in well-lit areas and keep their personal belongings in sight at all times if possible.
“In general, people need to be most aware of leaving purses and wallets unattended,” said Commander Tom Higgins, spokesman for the Ventura Police Department told the Ventura County Star.