For many, Thanksgiving is about time spent with family and friends. But for some, it’s about cold weather, blankets, long lines and Black Friday shopping.
For a lot of Black Friday shoppers, the fun begins while many are still making room for more turkey and dressing. Several stores in Conway, and nationwide, are scheduled to open their doors for droves of Christmas shoppers as early as 8 p.m. Thursday.
In preparation for an influx of shoppers to an always-growing number of local retail stores, the Conway City Council recently approved the Shop Secure program, which provides $50,000 to the Conway Police Department’s general fund to pay overtime hours for officers working extra patrols at shopping areas during the holiday season.
It’s a move that Chief A.J. Gary says has been done the last several years to provide extra patrol, beginning with the Thanksgiving holiday and extending through the first weekend after Christmas.
"We have a lot more people coming to Conway to shop than we used to," Gary said earlier this month. "So we try and get additional patrols out."
As part of the program, the police department will provide two patrol units at the Conway Commons, one at the Conway Towne Center and one in the downtown area, although Gary said the patrols will move to other shopping areas in Conway.
"It helps reassure that Conway is a good and safe place to come shop," Gary said.
During this time of increased shopping, the Conway Police Department said it is asking residents to be patient and considerate while shopping, and to always be on guard to prevent thefts.
The police department provided the following tips to help stay safe this holiday season:
•When shopping, do not leave valuables such as purses, wallets or recently purchased gifts where thieves can spot them in your vehicle. Put them in the trunk or out of sight in your vehicle.
•Always lock your vehicle, even if you are stepping away for a few minutes. It only takes mere seconds for a criminal to open your car door, pilfer through your belongings and walk away without anyone noticing him. Don’t make it easy by leaving your vehicle unlocked.
•Crowded areas are primed with "pick-pockets." Be mindful of people bumping you. Also, be cautious of those attempting to blatantly divert your attention. It could be a ploy for someone else to take your wallet out of a pocket or purse.
•Don’t flash large amounts of cash. Don’t make yourself a target for a theft once you leave the store.
•Park in well-lighted parking lots and as close to the shopping entrance as possible. When approaching your vehicle, keep at least one finger on your car’s keyless entry buttons if you have one. If someone makes you uncomfortable, you will easily draw attention by hitting the alarm/panic button. It’s better to apologize to the passerby’s for hitting the "wrong button" than to be a victim of crime. Try not to carry packages in your strong hand. Let your strong hand maneuver the keyless entry.
•Do not leave your purse in a shopping cart. If you must carry your purse in a shopping cart, close it tight, zip it up and use the child seat belt to snap it in. Don’t get wrapped up in shopping and walk away from your cart. If you leave your purse open or unzipped, you make your wallet easily accessible and you won’t know it’s missing until you get to the register. By that time, it’s too late.
•If you see anything suspicious, alert store personnel, security or police.
•Take a quick look inside of your vehicle before entering. After entering, lock your doors.
•Keep your cell phone easily accessible should you need to call 911. Be prepared to give as much description of perpetrator details as possible. Officers will need to know things such as physical and clothing descriptions, direction of travel and a description of vehicles involved. Be prepared to describe the color, type or model, and most importantly try to get a license plate if possible.