For shoppers concerned about their safety, this season has brought news both good and bad. The good news is that, as in years past, retailers have beefed up security to supervise large crowds seeking cut-rate holiday deals.
The bad news: In the past four days, America's retail stores and malls have seen several shootings and the trampling to death of a man caught in a stampede of overeager shoppers.
Security expert Ralph Witherspoon said the worst might not be over yet, which is due, in part, to today's slumping economy.
"People are out of jobs, and they still want to do something for their families for Christmas," he said.
The pressures facing today's consumers, he said, might contribute to an uptick in crime and violence at stores.
Lt. Kevin Smith, the commanding officer of the police department's public information office in Nassau County, N.Y. -- where the Wal-Mart temp was trampled to death Friday -- said shoppers "are trying to compensate for their lack of income by making sure that they get in and get in first. ... The stores are getting a larger volume of people over a short period of time.