Officers urge Black Friday shoppers to be smart

Local law enforcement wants Black Friday shoppers to slow down while driving, hide their bags and keep the texting to a minimum when they descend upon stores this week.


Authorities in Aiken, Richmond and Columbia counties said patrons of the area's largest shopping centers will notice an increased police presence Friday working to keep traffic running smoothly and thieves from targeting the thousands who are expected to wake up early for some of the best deals of the year.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said deputies will "be out in full force" during the holiday to keep shoppers safe.

He said the Mullins Crossing shopping center on Washington Road and the area around Bobby Jones Expressway and Washington Road will likely be the most busy traffic spots Friday.

"Citizens can expect to see a greater law enforcement presence in and around all shopping areas," Morris said.

In Richmond County, sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay said deputies will be focusing on crowds at Augusta Mall and the Augusta Exchange shopping center off Wheeler Road.

Special off-duty deputies have been hired by the mall to control the traffic lights at the busiest intersections entering the property, Gay said.

"If the traffic gets backed up, they will have the ability to operate the traffic lights manually," he said.

He urged drivers to be patient and to avoid texting and talking on the phone while navigating through high-traffic areas.

As in years past, Gay said police want people to avoid the mall's two main entrances -- which can become very congested -- and use Wylds Road, Capps Street or Garden Spring Lane as alternatives.

Aiken County Public Safety Capt. Wendell Hall said the agency plans to have officers on bikes and possibly on horseback patrolling downtown.

He suggested people plan to drop off expensive packages at home instead of leaving them in their vehicles and to be on the lookout for thieves.

"If you are buying laptops and computers, don't leave them in the back seat while you go and shop somewhere else," he said. "The bad guys know this stuff, too. It's not a secret."