Commonwealth Journal

December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving, Black Friday weekend relatively safe in Somerset

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Local police are very thankful that the Thanksgiving holiday — and the shopping rush that followed — went fairly smoothly this year.

The Somerset Police Department (SPD) was prepared for anything come the arrival of “Black Friday” — which actually started on Thursday evening this year — and had stationed officers at major commercial centers in town to assist with any problems that may arise, including detecting criminal activity through random, targeted patrols.

But the shopping-trip-gone-awry horror stories that seem to pop up every year somewhere in America fortunately avoided Somerset this year.

Capt. Shannon Smith of SPD said that there were a couple of arrests made for shoplifting. He specifically mentioned incidents at Kmart, including a couple of arrests made with people who already had warrants out for their arrest.

“There was a big crowd at most of the places we went to,” said Smith. “... Every year, we deal with a number of people who register complaints. I’m sure it’s happening in a lot of places.”

Smith noted that officers were stationed at Walmart, as is the case every year, and he knew of one altercation that took place there involving two males in a fight on Thanksgiving night.

The details of it — why it happened, who was involved — are unknown however, since by the time units arrived to the scene of the fight, it had broken up and the alleged combatants had disappeared into the crowd.

“Don’t think we had anything get more physical than (that altercation),” said Smith. “Everything else was disagreements over who was in line first.

“Every year, it’s the same thing,” he added. “When you have a lot of people in a smaller area, you have people who may not get to do things in the manner they planned. That sometimes gets feathers ruffled.”

Holiday travel also presents problems frequently, with so many cars on the road (headed for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie, or perhaps Dixie’s sunny shore), but the traffic was terrific, according to Smith.

“I think we only had one injury accident in the past week, so that was pretty good, especially considering the holiday period,” said Smith. “Nothing really substantial.”

Of course, that provides the perfect opportunity to remind drivers to be more careful at this time of year, when both extra traffic and dropping temperatures can cause accidents to happen more frequently.

“Thanksgiving has more travel than Christmas, but the thing that gets worse closer to Christmas is colder weather,” said Smith. “Once you have inclement weather coming in, it’s something you have to factor into your driving plan.

“The biggest thing is to allow yourself time to get (where you’re going),” he continued. “Don’t get in a rush. Drive defensively.

Smith also recommended preparing one’s vehicle for colder weather.

“Check the air in your tires,” he said. “A lot of people have an emergency roadside kit in their vehicle. It may have a blanket or something like that in case your vehicle gets disabled along the way.”