Crime declines slightly at two of three largest Baltimore County malls Increased security and police patrols credited

October 11, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

It's almost as good as a sale: The total number of crimes committed at two of the three largest malls in Baltimore County declined slightly in the first half of this year, according to police statistics released this week.

Security has been increased at the two malls -- Towson Town Center and Security Square Mall -- in the last year, and spokespersons for both malls, as well as police, said increased patrols and other measures helped keep crime down.

Countywide, the total number of crimes increased at five malls, stayed the same at one and dropped at the remaining four.

Towson Town Center and Security Square Mall increased the number of officers and the frequency of their patrols, said mall representatives. Shoplifting declined at both malls, as did several other types of crime.

Meanwhile, in Howard County's one mall and Anne Arundel County's two, police statistics showed slight increases in most categories of crime.

One notable exception at all three: theft of or from vehicles, which declined in the first half of 1997.

The crime most often reported at all 13 malls in three counties was shoplifting, followed by thefts of or from cars and assault.

The decline mirrors what is going on outside malls in Baltimore County, where crime declined in the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of last year.

"Violent crimes went down 6.1 percent compared to 1996," said Baltimore County Police spokesman Bill Toohey. Serious crimes, said -- which include offenses such as auto theft -- declined by 2.1 percent in the period.

"We're just a microcosm of the entire community," said Charles W. Norris, security director at Towson Town Center.

His mall, which has the county's largest number of stores but is ranked third in terms of leasable mall space, showed the largest decrease in crime. The mall had 293 crimes reported in the first half of this year, compared to 345 for the first half of 1996.

Crime also declined at Security Square Mall, the county's largest in terms of leasable space, which dropped from 389 in the first half of 1996 to 368 in the first half of this year.

At White Marsh, which has the second-largest area of leasable space, crime increased slightly, according to police figures. One hundred eighty-three crimes were reported at the mall in the first half last year. For the same period this year, 199 were reported.

Towson Town Center has increased the number of security patrols on foot, on bicycles and in patrol vehicles (used in the parking garage), said Norris. In March, a closed-circuit television system to monitor the areas outside the mall went into operation.

"It's worked out very well," Norris said.

L Thefts from and of cars also declined at Towson Town Center.

Security Square Mall also increased the number of officers and patrols, said general manager Deidre Moore, and a closed-circuit camera system will begin operation next month.

Neither she nor Norris would provide specific numbers or rate of increase in security patrols, saying such precise information is prohibited by corporate policy.

"It's a constant, deliberate approach," Moore said of the mall's increased attention to security. Other changes in the last year included brighter lights on patrol cars and changing patrol officers' uniforms from burgundy and black to the more police-like white shirt and dark pants.

L "Sometimes dark colors can get lost in a crowd," Moore said.

At White Marsh, which experienced a slight increase in crimes, "We always have a comprehensive security plan in effect," said Nancy Tucker, spokeswoman for the mall's owner, The Rouse Co. "The reason for the increase -- I really can't say."

At Marley Station and Annapolis malls in Anne Arundel County, the number of crimes stayed the same or rose slightly in most categories, except auto theft and theft from cars. Anne Marie Logan, a spokeswoman for the Annapolis Mall, said it was corporate policy at Westfield Corp., which owns the mall, not to comment on security.

But she added that the mall always evaluates its safety.

"We don't wait for something to happen -- we evaluate that on a continuing basis," she said.

At Marley Station, representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Howard County, which has only the Mall in Columbia, showed similar small increases in crime, except car-related incidents.

Tucker, the Rouse Co. spokeswoman, reiterated the Rouse corporate policy when asked about mall security.

"We have always had a complete and comprehensive security program at all our malls," she said. "As for these slight changes, I can't comment on them."

Mall crime

Malls in Baltimore County ..... 1996 ..... 1997

Rape .......................... 0 ........ 1

Commercial robbery ............ 30 ....... 24

Street robbery ................ 20 ....... 25

Assault ....................... 128 ...... 133

Burglary ...................... 21 ....... 27

Shoplifting ................... 1,407 .... 1,409

Theft from auto ............... 175 ...... 142

Motor vehicle theft ........... 97 ....... 87

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