With Christmas shoppers hitting the stores earlier every year, Anne Arundel County police began holiday patrols a week early this season too, sending officers and undercover detectives to shopping malls and centers Friday afternoon.
"The holiday season is starting earlier and earlier," said county Police Chief Larry W. Tolliver. He said that the patrol, which usually ends at Christmas, would continue a week longer this year.
"We know a lot of people are in malls returning presents and shopping the week after Christmas," he said. "Our goal is to show people Anne Arundel County is an extremely safe place to shop."
This year, the program includes 20 officers who will patrol malls and shopping centers throughout the county on foot, on bikes or in squad cars. Lt. Jeff Kelly, a Police Department spokesman, said the patrol last year had 12 officers.
The patrol, which the Northern District began in 1996, initially dispatched officers to malls and shopping centers along Ritchie Highway in that area. The patrol worked so well that county police expanded it last year to include shopping centers the length of Ritchie Highway and Annapolis Mall. This year, officers are patrolling shopping areas throughout the county.
"We want to minimize the impact of crime on this season -- eliminate it, if possible," Kelly said.
He said the patrol has reduced crime in the Northern District. In 1995, the year before the patrol began, 136 incidents of shoplifting, robbery, auto theft and theft from cars occurred in shopping center parking lots. In 1997, the figure had dropped to 71.
This year, the patrol will include not only officers and undercover detectives but also crime prevention officers, who will be stationed at kiosks in covered malls to distribute a brochure, "Tips for Safe and Happy Holidays."
The officers will work with mall security on the patrols.
The officers also plan to patrol shopping center and mall parking lots with cruiser lights flashing.
"So if you see a police car with flashing lights, that's a good sign, not a bad sign," Tolliver said.
XTC Pub Date: 11/23/98