Santa Claus is coming to town and so are the usual traffic jams, bulging parking lots and endless checkout lines.
To ease the predictable holiday crush of shoppers, local law enforcement and retail outlets are beefing up their efforts to keep traffic and lines flowing.
And because Black Friday morning has crept earlier into Thanksgiving night, the urgency is even greater.
Last year, stores such as Walmart and Target opened Thanksgiving night with deep-discounted “Door Buster” sales events. This year, the two big-box stores are opening even earlier.
To meet the usual holiday crush, stores around retail centers in Akron, Bath and Copley townships and Fairlawn hire off-duty officers and seasonal workers to help with crowd control, traffic and civil obedience.
As usual, a greater police presence emerges in Montrose, one of the region’s busiest shopping destinations.
Copley police Chief Michael Mier said planning for the blitz hasn’t changed much since last year. The department will have officers in cruisers and officers in unmarked cars surveying the shops in their portion of Montrose.
“We’ll do whatever we have to do to provide safety for the community,” he said.
Mier said officers will be especially diligent in parking lots to discourage thefts from vehicles. The chief cautioned shoppers to keep their bargains out of sight.
And to further discourage thefts, police are setting up “bait” cars in store parking lots to draw out potential criminals, he said.
The bottom line, Mier said, is to keep shoppers safe and keep the traffic slowing.
In Fairlawn, off-duty police officers have been hired by Walmart and Target to aid with their major sales events.
Officers will also patrol the city’s numerous strip malls and the Summit Mall along West Market Street.
Police Chief Kenneth Walsh, whose department is well-versed in handling holiday crowds, said the goal is “to keep traffic flowing and keep our eyes open to anything that might happen.”
The same plans are being employed by Akron police as they work with Chapel Hill area merchants to increase staffing to handle holiday traffic in and around the always busy Howe Avenue corridor.
Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards said holiday shoppers should budget their time just as they budget their Christmas gift list. He said there will be greater traffic and longer tie-ups because of the sheer number of shoppers.
Travelers should be prepared and exercise patience.
“We should all be patient and just make this holiday season enjoyable,” he said.