Local police departments plan to be visible as the holiday shopping season kicks off on Black Friday.
The Jackson Police Department will roll out Operation Safe Shop starting Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s, said Sam Brown, public information officer for the department.
“We deploy extra patrol officers to parking lots of shopping areas in northeast Jackson and south Jackson,” he said. “We’ll have patrol officers in parking lots in marked units with blue lights flashing. The shoppers feel safe when they see the police cars and the criminals will wait, wait, wait.”
JPD will adjust the shifts of officers to accommodate Operation Safe Shop, he said. “Some officers take the shifts as overtime, but the chief tries to adjust the shifts so they don’t cut into the budget,” he said
Lt. Tony Willridge, patrol commander for the Ridgeland Police Department, said the department will initiate a Christmas detail for the city’s retail areas beginning Black Friday and continuing through Dec. 24. “We bring in additional officers to up our visibility in our retail populated areas,” he said.
Shopping areas in Ridgeland include the County Line Road corridor with Northpark, Walmart and Lowe’s; Highland Colony Parkway, which is home to Costco and Renaissance at Highland Colony; and the Township at Colony Park. “We increase foot patrols and our mobile presence,” he said.
For many years, Ridgeland Police Department has during the holidays set up a precinct inside Northpark but it does not plan to do that this year, Willridge said. The space that it used in previous years was not available, so officers will operate out of their vehicles in the mall parking lot, he said.
Christy Pender, marketing and business development manager at Northpark, said offering shoppers and employees a safe experience is important.
“We constantly have a patrol in the parking lot all the time, 24/7,” she said. “In addition, we have a patrol inside. We have a person walking around Northpark at 3 a.m. We take it seriously.”
Unlike many years when the mall stayed open throughout the night or opened as early as 5 a.m. on Black Friday, the mall is scheduled to open on Black Friday at 8 a.m. and will have shoppers line up inside in center court for giveaways sponsored by the mall, she said. Retailers such as JC Penney and Belk will announce their own plans for Black Friday, she said.
“Before COVID-19, we wanted to get as many people here as possible but that’s simply unacceptable,” Pender said. “We would never put something together to encourage people to congregate in large groups. Our health and safety is way more important.”
The Madison Police Department plans to increase patrols in shopping areas starting before Thanksgiving and continuing through the week after Christmas, said Capt. Kevin Newman, who is over the administration support division at Madison Police Department.
Retail areas that will have additional uniformed police officers in patrol vehicles as well as plain clothes officers in unmarked vehicles include Grandview Boulevard, Highway 51 and Colony Crossing shopping center, he said. Some of the Big Box stores also arrange to have officers inside, he said.
Jan Mattiace, marketing communications director at Renaissance at Colony Park, said the center plans to increase the number of staff members on the Renaissance Safety and Ambassador team.
“They are our eyes and ears around the shopping center and are available to transport our customers and tenants to and from their vehicles,” she said. “As traffic increases, we will have additional security provided by a private company. We also have a highly visible security system with surveillance cameras, indicated by blue lights throughout the center.”
Mike Peters, owner of Duling Hall, Fondren Corner and Fondren Place in Jackson, said security throughout the holidays will be the same as ever.
“We’re not doing any more or any less,” he said. “We have full-time security at Duling Hall seven nights a week and we have full security at night at Fondren Corner.”
Rebecca Garrison, executive director of the Fondren Renaissance, Fondren’s Ambassadors provide “a daily safety presence” in the business improvement district daily from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
“After dark, they are available to walk visitors to their cars within the district,” she said. “Just call 601-317-1716. Many of our shopping centers also have their own security officers who can help with parking and provide information.”
At The District at Eastover, 24-hour security is already in place seven days a week, said Paula Werne, commercial property manager.
“We will work with JPD,” she said. “They do a safe shopping operation and officers will ride through several times a day during the month of December. Security will be present in the evenings when retail and restaurants located are open.”
Shoppers should keep in mind that many crimes are crimes of opportunity, Willridge said, as would-be criminals want the biggest reward with the least effort. “If they have to put a lot of effort in taking from you, it’s not worth their effort,” he said.
Willridge recommends shopping in a group with friends and families and during daylight hours, if possible. Also recommended is to carry in one’s front pocket only the amount of cash and credit cards necessary for shopping and for anyone who prefers to carry a purse to choose a crossbody style rather than a large tote.
“As you walk to your car, have your keys in your hand, so you can unlock the door and get in your car,” he said. “Don’t overload yourself with packages so your hands are occupied.”
Always take the time to lock packages in the trunk of the vehicle so they are not visible, Willridge said.
For anyone ordering packages online who may not be home when they’re delivered, it’s a good idea to track the package and ask a neighbor or friend to keep it secure, Willridge said.
For anyone who may be away from home for the holidays, it is recommended that a neighbor or friend pick up any mail, so it doesn’t pile up and signal that no one’s home, he said.