Gobble Down That Turkey Dinner, the LAPD Is Ready as Stores Open

The police will be using horses and helicopters to control crowds.

The Los Angeles Police Department remembers last year's pepper spraying melee at the Porter Ranch Walmart. And bargain shoppers are already camping outside their favorite stores waiting for tonight's opening.

The LAPD will have officers on horseback and in helicopters on Thanksgiving and Black Friday to control the crowds. Walmart has hired 27 additional private security officers, four of whom will be armed.

All this preparation comes as Black Friday has migrated into Thursday.

Walmart and Toys "R" Us are among the stores starting their specials even earlier than last year.

Walmart will kick off its in-store sales at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year. Toys "R" Us is also opening at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than last year.

And Target will open at 9 p.m., a full three hours earlier than last year's 12:01 a.m. Black Friday start.

Sears stores will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Best Buy will open at midnight.

LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith told the Los Angeles Times the department's preparations for Black Friday were prompted in part by a woman at the Porter Ranch Walmart using pepper spray last Thanksgiving on other shoppers seeking discounted video games, injuring more than 20 people.

Smith said that he hopes people will behave, but "like Chief (Charlie) Beck says, 'We are not in the optimism business."'

Police expect Thanksgiving night and Black Friday, the traditional opening of the Christmas shopping season where shoppers crowd malls in pursuit of short-lived bargains, to be a day of surveillance, crowd control and crime suppression.

"For some people, shopping is a competitive sport," Smith said. "But it should not be a contact sport."

Do you have a shopping strategy? Click on the store names below to preview Black Friday advertisements, courtesy of bfads.net:

-- City News Service contributed to this report.

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