Police say changes in Black Friday shopping hours are expected to alleviate many of the traffic and crowding problems they’ve faced in past years.
Many big-box stores are extending their shopping hours into Thursday evening, and that has spread shoppers out over almost two days, which also spreads out the traffic near shopping centers and malls.
“We’re still going to have (deputies) out there,” Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said.
Special-duty officers have already been requested to assist with traffic and prevent shoplifting in stores and shopping center parking lots.
In 2011, only five cases of shoplifting were reported on Black Friday, according to crime data. Four occurred at the Augusta Mall.
Police said there will be minor traffic changes this year. Augusta shoppers are encouraged to use the Wylds Road entrance to the Augusta Mall rather than the Wrightsboro Road entrance. Deputies will manage the parking lot traffic and change patterns as needed.
Deputies will operate traffic signals at major intersections in an effort to keep traffic from backing up.
Aiken Public Safety Capt. David Turno said there will be no pattern changes. Other than the usual back-ups on Whiskey Road, he said he expects delays to be minimal.
“Most of those problems went away when they put in the roundabout at the mall,” he said. “Prior to that, we used to have some serious traffic-flow problems.”
Police ask that drivers practice safe driving by avoiding cellphone use and having patience.
Police also remind shoppers to keep their purchases locked away out of sight in the trunk.