Malls report drop in crime

January 01, 1999|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

Crime dropped significantly at all but one of 10 Baltimore County malls for the first nine months of last year, police said. The drop was attributed to heavier police patrols in commercial areas and greater vigilance by police and private security at the malls -- measures carried through the holiday season.

The largest decline was reported at Security Square Mall, where the number of crimes for the first nine months of 1998 dropped to 391, down from 522 for the same period in 1997.

All other malls showed a drop in crime, except Owings Mills Town Center, where a sharp increase in shoplifting -- from 189 reported incidents in the first nine months of 1997 to 291 in the first nine months of 1998 -- increased the total number of crimes.

``It's a statistical fluke,'' said David Tripp, vice president of corporate communications for Rouse Co., which owns Owings Mills Town Center and Howard County's The Mall in Columbia. ``We don't comment on crimes in the mall. Crime in malls is minuscule compared to the cities.''

Baltimore is the only county in Central Maryland that delineates crimes committed at malls in countywide statistical data.

Police statistics show a low incidence of crime at Baltimore County malls.

At all 10, shoplifting was the most frequently reported crime, followed by theft from and of motor vehicles. No killings or rapes were reported at county malls in the first nine months of last year.

Decline in assaults

Assaults declined at all but two malls through September of last year. Nineteen assaults were reported at Golden Ring last year, compared with 14 in 1997, and 14 at Owings Mills in 1998, compared with 13 for the same period a year earlier.

At Security Square, crime declined or stayed the same in every category, according to police statistics.

Among the most notable decreases there: shoplifting, which declined to 317 incidents in the first nine months of last year from 424 incidents for the same period a year earlier. Assaults declined to 31 in 1998's first nine months from 35 for the same period in 1997. Theft from autos and motor vehicle thefts also declined.

``We did increase the officers, and increase their visibility,'' said Paul Martin, a retired Baltimore County police officer who heads security at Security Square Mall. In the past year or so, he said, more off-duty police officers in uniform have been added to mall patrols to increase security.

In 1997, the mall also changed the uniforms of its officers to a more police-like white shirt and dark pants, which Martin said increased their visibility.

The mall also converted a former retail space into a security kiosk with cameras that run 24 hours a day.

Martin, like most of his counterparts at the county's nine other malls, is a member of the Baltimore County Police Private Security Association. Members include mall security officers, corporate security officers and local police officers, and several officials said the organization has helped foster a closer relationship that has helped lower crime at malls.

Business Patrol Initiative

``I think it's the interaction between business merchants, the Business Patrol Initiative and private security,'' said Capt. John Spiroff of the Baltimore County Police Department. Spiroff is the president of the Police Private Security Association.

The Business Patrol Initiative, which began about a year ago, is designed to increase police presence along the county's main commercial corridors, where most of the malls are.

Shared information key

Spiroff said that shared information about crime trends -- the association's members meet once a month -- has helped security officers keep merchants and customers informed about how to prevent crime at malls.

``We gather crime data, and we exchange a lot of information in order to be proactive,'' he said. ``The goal is crime prevention. Many times, people who work security are seeing crime trends that we [in the Police Department] need to know about. It's started paying off.''

Pub Date: 1/01/99

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