It's Easy to be Robbed in Black Friday Crowds; Ways Shoppers Can Stay Safe


By Heather VacLav

Thanksgiving time means more than turkey and dressing, it also brings with it the rush of Black Friday shoppers. But as shoppers prepare for those "door buster" deals, police say some can overlook their safety.

While many of us are at home with our families, others will be in lines outside of stores like Target, Best Buy, Walmart and at the Shoppes at East Chase.

In less than one minute Wednesday, our crews watched at least five women walk with loose purses, easily snatch-able by thieves.
Montgomery Police say these habits are all too common around the holidays, especially on Black Friday when hundreds of people could be shopping all at once in a single store.
Many Montgomery retailers are pushing up the typical early bird shopping to Thanksgiving night. Walmart, Kmart, Toys R' Us and Sears all open their doors at 8:00 p.m., Target opens at 9:00 p.m. and Best Buy and Kohls open at 12:00 a.m. Some stores, like Target at the Shoppes at EastChase, hope the earlier push will ease the crowd size and by doing so, help keep shoppers safe.
“We let them file in, trickle in several at a time, and then we stop and let some more, so it’s not like the initial door opening and they flood in,” said Cindy Mills, the executive team leader at Target.
Cutting in line may seem harmless, but police say when tired people are competing for deals, one person cutting in line could trigger a fight.
“For the most part people are pretty nice, but you do see adults kind of acting childish, they try to cut in line and people get mad because they cut in line,” Brandon Dasinger of Florida said. Dasigner is visiting his family in Montgomery, but says the crowds don't intimidate him and his wife who plan on shopping early Friday morning.
But once you get inside the stores, police say crowd control isn't always the problem.
“If you're in front of a big crowd and you're paying, don't flash the cash,” Montgomery Police Corporal David Hicks with the Community Policing Bureau, said.
Cpl. Hicks says a common mistake is when shoppers are counting their money for a purchase in front of the cash register, because it's visible to everyone in line behind them. If you flash a lot of money, Hicks says a thief could easily follow and rob you once you get to your car.
While Hicks suggests using a debit or credit card, he says shoppers need to be careful with plastic payments, too.
“If we have a credit card in our hand, we want to make sure that we're covering those numbers up,” Hicks said. Without a shopper noticing, Hicks says someone could use their cell phone to take a picture of the credit card numbers and use it to go shopping.
Despite the lure of saving hundreds of dollars, some shoppers stray away from Black Friday for fear of being caught up in the crowds or becoming victims of crime.
When asked if she would be shopping Black Friday, Regina Heavens of Montgomery said, “Heavens no, I'm going to stay home and sleep late, I don't get out on that busy day. I'm retired, so I have all the time in the world to come during the week.”
If shoppers participate in Black Friday sales, police remind them not to be “flashy” with money or purchases. They say shoppers shouldn’t wear expensive jewelry, even wedding rings, and also suggest hiding purchases in your trunk.
Police say safety precautions should continue beyond Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.