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Holiday Frenzy: Police urge patience as shopping season opens

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Shoppers will park on medians when parking lots get full, and drivers trying to get to the mall will become impatient waiting in hourlong traffic backups.

The lines and long waits are part of the Black Friday experience, but police hope traffic will be a little better this year with stores opening earlier than ever.

Thousands of people will converge on malls and stores in Greenwood and Edinburgh Thursday and Friday for deals on electronics, toys and clothes.

With that many people, long lines and packed streets and parking lots are unavoidable. But with some stores opening at 8 and 9 p.m. Thursday, police think the number of people heading out to shop could be spread out over multiple hours instead of all at once.

And that could help with some of the crowds.

Both Greenwood Park Mall and Edinburgh Premium Outlets officially open at 12:01 a.m. Friday; but some stores will open as early as 9 p.m. Thursday, and some won’t open until 6 a.m. Friday.

Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said more than 100,000 people will travel through the Greenwood Park Mall area on Friday. With that many people in the area, he said, traffic backups and accidents are bound to happen.

“Experienced or seasoned Black Friday shoppers can expect to see things similar to what they’ve seen in the past. It’s one of those days of the year we ask everyone to exercise patience and understanding,” Greenwood Police Department Sgt. Doug Roller said.

Though rain is expected on Friday, Roller said he doesn’t think the weather will stop people from camping in front of the stores or coming out to shop.

He said that in the past, people have parked recreational vehicles in the Greenwood Park Mall parking lot and pitched tents on a grassy area near Best Buy.

“It looked like they had their own little Woodstock over there because it was all muddy,” Roller said.

But now that Best Buy and other stores are opening at midnight or earlier, Roller said shoppers might not think it’s necessary to camp.

Shoppers should anticipate waiting in traffic on both sides of U.S. 31 from Fry Road to County Line Road, as well as driving around parking lots multiple times before finding open spots, Roller said.

If they can’t find a parking spot, shoppers should not park in the grass or on medians because their vehicles might be towed, he said.

“It’s just a matter of trying to fit as many people that want to be there all at the same time,” Roller said. “It will result in backups, delays, inconveniences. Leave aggressive driving to the NASCAR drivers.”

Both the Edinburgh and Greenwood police departments plan to have officers assigned specifically to the mall areas to quickly respond to accidents and thefts. If the officers were not already in the area, they’d have no way to get there with the traffic backups, Fillenwarth said.

“I don’t care if you’re running a siren. If the traffic’s gridlocked, you’re not getting there,” he said.

Edinburgh police will focus on the areas around Edinburgh Premium Outlets on U.S. 31 and Interstate 65, where traffic will be the most congested throughout the day, Edinburgh Police Chief David Mann said.

In Greenwood, officers assigned to the area around the mall will drive around parking lots, walk through the mall and respond to calls about accidents, thefts and keys locked in cars.

Fillenwarth said more people report car break-ins during the holidays, but he doesn’t expect a large increase in thefts on Black Friday. To prevent break-ins, shoppers should keep packages locked in their trunks and not out in the open in their vehicles, he said.

“Our goal is to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable shopping experience,” Roller said.

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