SOUTHAVEN, MS -- The mad dash of holiday shopping will start earlier this year, late Thanksgiving night. It's now "Black Thursday." With crowds coming early, Southaven Police are prepping now.
"Based on the ads and past year's experience it will probably be a big turnout," says Deputy Chief Steve Pirtle.
Southaven Police say bring on the crowds. During the holidays, the force always steps up patrols in the city's main shopping area with what's called "Operation Christmas Presence." It usually starts on Black Friday, but not this year.
"The sales are starting Thursday night for most stores this year," Pirtle says. "A lot of them are opening up at ten for their specials."
So cops will be working extra overtime. Wal-Mart is even hiring Southaven Police officers to work security for ten hours Friday.
"I intend to be there tomorrow night, at Wal-Mart at 10 o'clock," says Frances Harmon, an avid Black Friday shopper.
Harmon will be shopping for her five grandkids.
"I've never been on Thursday night," she tells abc24.com. "This is a first. We usually get there about 3:30 in the morning and wait in line for whatever the kids are wanting. This year we're looking for tvs."
While hunting those bargains, cops warn don't forget about safety.
Parking lots can often be dangerous places. Police say walking and looking at your cell phone is one of the worst things you can do.
They say keep your head up and pay attention to what's going on around you. When it's time to leave, always have your keys ready.
"Don't dally out and around your vehicle too long with packages and such," says Pirtle. "Historically people do like to find people that have their hands full."
Pirtle adds people go where they feel safe, and he wants that to be Southaven.
"There's been an increase in tax revenue come to city from the increase in holiday traffic. You can feel it with the traffic. It's very easy to notice when traffic picks up."
"Operation Christmas Presence" began about 15-years-ago. The operation runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.