Midnite Shoppers

Shoppers head into Coach in the Wrentham Premium Outlets at midnight of Black Friday. (File photo by Martin Gavin)

WRENTHAM - Swarms of shoppers are expected again at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets when the clock strikes midnight Thanksgiving night.

Planning board members voted unanimously at a heavily attended public hearing Wednesday night to allow for the mall's "Midnight Madness" to be held, provided 10 security cameras are installed before the event at the Route 1A mall.

The hearing was continued to the planning board's next meeting Nov. 7 to give the town leverage.

A disagreement between mall representatives and town officials over the cameras threatened to shut down the early morning hours of "Black Friday" that traditionally kick off the holiday shopping season.

Police and the planning board requested surveillance cameras be installed for safety reasons, and mall representatives, after initially balking at that demand, agreed.

However, disagreements over conditions cropped up and took up most of the hearing.

"We give assurance they'll be in," mall attorney Larry Kaplan said of the cameras.

"For years, we've been trying to get this done," police Lt. William McGrath said of the surveillance cameras.

He said of Black Friday: "It's a day we are most vulnerable for something to go wrong. It draws in thousands and thousands of people. It's chaos you are trying to control."

McGrath said a robber who tied up a store's employees last December hasn't been caught yet, but might have been if there had been security cameras.

Police officials also mentioned the threat of terrorism.

"We think we're a pretty safe mall," Kaplan said. "It has far less incidents of theft and crime" compared with other malls.

"There are reasons why we have been resistent to having cameras," Kaplan said, noting mall owner Simon Properties doesn't have cameras at its other outlet malls.

He declined to state those reasons.

The planning board also said it and police chief will continue to review with mall representatives each year how the super shopping day goes and if any "reasonable" changes are needed.

Other conditions that are part of the vote are that the mall will maintain the cameras, but the town will monitor them. McGrath said he didn't see the cameras costing the town anything.

Board members balked at a mall proposal that the cameras would cease to be used if the shopping day was not held.

The hearing was relocated from Town Hall to the nearby public safety building's community room to accommodate the audience that included many store employees and several TV news cameras.

Keri Stan, a manager of the Lacoste store, pleaded with the parties to settle the dispute.

"Three weeks ago, I started planning. I need to know now," Stan said, noting that among her concerns are whether to hire more employees.

"Over 150 stores need to plan for the biggest shopping event of the year," she said.

"We're in tough times. Every dollar, every hour counts," said Isaac Larkin, who represented two stores, noting that mall stores are competing with other stores and just want "equal footing."

Planning board members expressed irritation.

"We shouldn't be put in this situation," board member John Fragola said.

He noted that negotiations over surveillance cameras stretched back to early this year.

"The landlord had the ability to work this out a long, long time ago," he said.

Some mall neighbors had a different take.

"I am dead-set against Midnight Madness," John Dennis of South Street said, complaining of traffic and noise. "My dogs bark all night."

Another neighbor, John Zizza, a former selectman, said the special shopping day "grows and grows. I think it is a nightmare for people."

Police and mall representatives and several planning board members contended the event has worked out fairly well.

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