Lexington police will have officers on duty at Fayette Mall and the Hamburg shopping district starting at 8 p.m. Thursday to help with traffic and other holiday shopping problems.
The police department has long provided stepped-up enforcement for the Black Friday shopping blitz.
But police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Tuesday that this is the first time the department has pushed the start-up back to Thanksgiving evening.
The move is in response to the increasing numbers of retailers that are starting sales and special promotions in advance of the traditional Black Friday holiday shopping kick-off, Roberts said.
Police Lt. J.J. Lombardi said that, as in previous years, officers will be on duty at Hamburg and Fayette Mall on Black Friday to provide traffic enforcement and help ensure a "safe motoring environment for the public."
Traffic safety officers will be in place in the period leading up to Christmas, he said.
"We will have variable message boards in the areas of the malls to inform motorists to please use good judgment, show patience and abide by our traffic laws," Lombardi said.
In addition, police will provide "traffic alcohol patrols" on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. from now until the end of the year, according to Lombardi.
He said traffic enforcement officers will work Lexington's main thoroughfares, including New Circle Road and interstates 75 and 64, operating in two-person teams two days a week during the holidays.
The times for those enforcement efforts will vary, he said.
"In terms of security, we will have the Skywatch Tower at Fayette Mall as in the past, and we will have additional officers at these locations to take care of criminal complaints," Lombardi said.
Lombardi said "patience, good judgment and caution" would help motorists and shoppers to get through the holiday period with a minimum of problems.
That will be particularly important at "perennial problem" intersections such as the one at East Reynolds and Nicholasville roads, he said.
"A lot of our thoroughfares ... are going to be congested; we're going to have collisions and we're going to have violations," Lombardi said. "We are going to have personnel in place to abate these things. But if we get some cooperation on (the general public's) part, it will make our job a lot easier, and it will make their environment a lot safer."
Officer Bige Towery, with the police services section, offered tips Tuesday to help shoppers avoid being victimized by criminals during the holidays.
Among other things, make sure you know where you park at the mall, Towery said. People sometimes forget where they parked and erroneously think their vehicles have been stolen, he said.
To avoid tempting thieves, keep car doors locked, and place GPS devices, cellphones, purchases and other valuable possessions out of sight in the trunk, he advised.
"When you're walking through parking lots, be aware of your surroundings," Towery said. "Often, when we interview victims, we find they had no idea that someone was approaching. Or if they did, they did not trust their own instincts.
"If something feels wrong, listen to what your mind is telling you. Go back in the store. Nothing says you have to walk through the parking lot."
Towery also urged shoppers in stores to be cautious about putting down shopping bags or purses. He warned that it's easy for criminals to photograph your checks or debit cards at the cash register.
Also, be careful about posting information about your shopping on Facebook, Towery said. Criminals monitoring social media could learn you're not at home, he said.
If you're shopping at the mall with children, plan a meeting place in advance in case you become separated. Also, tell your children about strangers and parking lot safety before going out, Towery said.
Towery said he heard someone say recently that criminals approach theft as if it were their job.
"I said, it is their job," Towery said. "We just need to be aware."
Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.