Howard County police said yesterday they are searching for a man who attempted to steal a car and abduct a woman at knifepoint at The Mall in Columbia on Wednesday evening amid the busy holiday-week shopping rush.
About 7 p.m., a man carrying a knife approached a 21-year-old woman sitting in a 2006 Honda Accord in the parking lot near the entrance to the food court on the south side of the building.
He ordered the victim out of the car, and when she opened the door, he pushed her into the passenger seat and demanded cash, according to police.
As the man backed up the Accord, the woman managed to get out and run for help, said Pfc. Jennifer Reidy, a spokeswoman for the county police. At that point, the man got out of the car and fled.
Howard County police and mall security were patrolling the facility at the time of the incident and were on the scene immediately, said mall General Manager Karen M. Geary.
"I have to give credit to the individual involved," she said. "She did a very good job getting away and knew what to do in terms of getting help."
Police are searching for a 5-foot-3-inch Hispanic male of medium build between the ages of 25 and 30. He has a thin mustache, short black hair and was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket with gray shoulders at the time of the incident.
Geary called the man "very bold" for attempting the theft during the holiday season when more than 4 million people shop there.
"It's been a very quiet holiday season," she said of crime incidents at the mall, which has more than 200 stores. "It's unusual to have this type of incident."
The day after Thanksgiving, the mall's operators activated a new video surveillance system on the 90-acre property. Tilt-and-zoom cameras are now throughout the building and in all parking garages and lots. Police records contained no reference to the incident being caught on tape.
Anyone with information is asked to call Howard County police at 410-313-3200.