Police increasing patrols, visibility during holiday season

The holiday shopping season gets underway on Thanksgiving, and police and private security will be out in full force to ensure shoppers stay safe as they pick up their Christmas and holiday wares.

Jackson, Madison and Ridgeland all plan to run special details during the season. Retailers are also taking extra steps to protect their customers, in hopes that all will have a positive shopping experience.

Police departments were finalizing plans last week. In Jackson, additional officers will focus on the city’s major commercial areas, including I-55 North and County Line Road.

“We’ll have high-visibility blue-light patrols and will be passing out literature on how people can keep safe,” said Cmdr. Jesse Robinson.

The program will run from November 29 to December 31, during shopping hours. The operation will be staffed by the Jackson Police Department’s command staff, special operations, traffic unit and DART, the Direct-Action Response Team.

No officers will be taken off of their normal patrols, and overtime will likely not have to be used, Robinson said. “We should have excellent customer service during the operation.”

The Ridgeland Police Department’s shopping detail will begin on Thanksgiving, around 6 p.m., and go until Christmas Eve, said Lt. Tony Willridge, commander over Ridgeland’s patrol division.

Ridgeland will focus its patrols on County Line Road and Highland Colony Parkway, it’s major commercial corridors. The department also will set up a temporary police precinct at Northpark.

“We will have officers stationed right there at Northpark,” he said. “I’ve been here 24 years, and we’ve been doing it ever since my tenure here (began).”

Willridge was not sure where the temporary headquarters would be set up, since Northpark has undergone major renovations.

“It depends on what space they have available to set up our offices. Last year, during the renovations, all the spaces were full with construction equipment or leased out. We actually shared an office with the on-site security,

which is very visible to the public.”

Northpark aside, other focal points for the department will include the Wheatley Street Walmart, the Renaissance at Colony Park and the Township at Colony Park.

Like in Jackson, officers will not be taken off of their normal duties to run the details. Rather, personnel will be offered overtime to work additional shifts.

The Madison Police Department’s holiday detail will also begin on Thanksgiving and run through the start of the new year.

The department will deploy uniformed officers and marked cars, as well as plain-clothes officers and unmarked vehicles, said Cpt. Kevin Newman.

“We have not finalized the schedule. There will be at least two to four (additional uniformed officers) in the Grandview areas, depending on the times,” he said.

Officers will remain on site until store closings, to ensure shoppers and employees are safe.

As in Ridgeland, normal patrols, with overtime being offered to officers to take extra shifts.

In addition to an increased police presence, shopping centers like the Renaissance are also beefing up their security.

“During the holidays, we will be increasing numbers on the shifts of our Renaissance safety/ambassador team,” said Jan Mattiace, marketing communications director with the Mattiace Company. “They are our eyes and ears around Renaissance and are available to transport customers and tenants to and from their vehicles.”

Another added level of security is lifestyle center’s surveillance camera system, which is “indicated by blue lights throughout the center,” she said.

Farther south, developers of the District at Eastover say they will analyze conditions and make changes as needed.

“We have a security consultant that looks at our means of security from the big-picture perspective,” said co-developer Breck Hines. “The District is one of the few places that has security 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Obviously we will continue that.”

The security is especially important as the number of retailers there increase. This year, the center welcomed several new tenants, including a new food hall, specialty pet shop, gift shop and children’s clothing store. Next month, a new full-service, locally owned pharmacy is slated to open up.

“There’s a lot of new foot traffic we didn’t have this time last year,” Hines said.

Mike Peters, owner of Duling Hall, Fondren Corner and Fondren Place, said he will continue doing what he does all year to keep visitors to his developments safe.

“We already have full-time security,” he said. We have it all year round, from the late afternoon or early evening into midnight.”

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