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Shop until you drop, but stay safe

POSTED: December 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

As holiday shoppers make a bee-line for malls and retailers today, there’s no doubt a swarm of deal-seekers could become prey for criminals.

Local law enforcement officials will take to area highways and malls on "Black Friday," the day following Thanksgiving, which traditionally jump-starts the holiday shopping season, to help alleviate traffic and reduce car break-ins.

Hall County sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said sheriff’s deputies will be out in force to facilitate traffic and monitor shopping areas. He said deputies will be particularly visible at Lakeshore Mall, the shops on Dawsonville Highway and at Stonebridge Village shopping center in Flowery Branch, which will cash in on the holiday season for the first time.

"As always on the day after Thanksgiving, we do expect (retailers) to be more crowded than usual," Strickland said. "We will have our officers and traffic enforcement unit out in our heavily travelled areas. It’s also a big driving day for travelers, so we’ll be monitoring I-985 and all our major highways."

Strickland reminds passengers to wear seat belts and drivers to not drive under the influence of alcohol.

Dawson County sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten said despite the mall mayhem inside the North Georgia Premium Outlets, traffic and crime has never been a real problem at the outlet mall on Black Friday.

"We never really have a major traffic issue," Wooten said. "They have a huge parking lot. It’ll be pretty packed for the next few weeks up until Christmas, especially this weekend."

Wooten said many off-duty sheriff’s deputies are hired by the outlet mall to help control the crowds. Last year, shoppers broke down the door to the Coach store scrambling for bargains when the high-end store opened at midnight on Black Friday.

Remember to keep your valuables and gifts safe in your car and out of view, preferably in your trunk, to deter break-ins, Wooten said.

"More people obviously means more problems, but it usually goes on with very little issues," Wooten said.

As for the outlet mall, Wooten said it’s undoubtedly going to be busy this holiday season from the moment it opens.


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