Black Friday gobbles up a piece of Thanksgiving

Black Friday starts on Thursday now, the day also known as Thanksgiving.

At the Eden Prairie Center, the famous – or infamous – shopping day full of big sales, give-away deals and other promotions begins with a few large retailers opening at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22.

Eden Prairie Police are enlisting more staff hours to help guide traffic and shoppers near the mall and other big retail shops in town.

At the Eden Prairie Center, Sears is opening 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22, followed by Old Navy, Subway and Target all opening at 9 p.m. Then, a few more stores open 10-11 p.m. A flood of stores – 48 – then open at midnight, Nov. 23, according to a release from the Eden Prairie Center.

Another round will be at 5 a.m., when 58 stores open.

Those who arrive early will have a chance to win a trip, gift cards and movie passes, according to the release.

It could be a long day.

“I know the retailers have mixed emotions about it, but I believe this holiday shopping season will be better than last year,” said Officer Bob Harberle, who works in the Police Department’s retail unit, which  operates out of the shopping center. “… I expect a good turnout here in Eden Prairie.”

Harberle has been on the retail unit for 11 years, he said. He and Travis Serafin primarily patrol the Eden Prairie Center, walking 6-15 miles a day.

“We are here for just a whole host of basic public safety because of the crowds,” Harberle said. Their role is to prevent nefarious activity and promote a positive experience, he said, so their job can include the “whole ball of wax”: customer assistance, providing directions, getting car keys out of a locked vehicle and responding to medical situations at the center, he said.

“Prevention is a very big part of their job,” said the Eden Prairie Police Department’s retail unit leader, Sgt. Jamie Good.

Highly visible patrols and even customer assistance are good ways to thwart criminal activity at the mall and in the city, Harberle said.

Good also credited Harberle for prompting a crisis management preparation at the shopping center, creating a lockdown procedure should a gunman open fire in the mall. The retail unit drilled a 10-minute lockdown procedure with retail staff members in late September.

Those duties go along with reducing retail crime in area. Although the two operate from the mall’s police substation, they also cover the big retail stores near the Eden Prairie Center, such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Costco and Home Depot.

The two officers have made 159 theft arrests so far this year, Good said. That doesn’t include all the theft arrests at the mall by other officers, only those made by Harberle and Serafin during shift work.

These two officers are separate from the Eden Prairie Center’s security staff. And, when a retail employee stops an alleged thief, it’s actually considered a citizen’s arrest, Good said; only the police officers can arrest or cite an alleged thief under state-granted authority.

To make a valid citizen’s arrest, the alleged thief must be seen taking, concealing and then exiting a store with an un-purchased item, Harberle said.

Once in a while, though, Harberle will see a thief in action through a department store window.

“We work a full uniformed patrol here,” he said. “We don’t sneak around undercover.”