Beefing Up Security At Large Shopping Centers

Arundel Bill Would Require Cameras In Parking Areas

July 09, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

An Anne Arundel County councilman plans to introduce legislation to require large shopping centers to install security cameras in parking areas, after a recent robbery attempt at Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, where a new slots parlor has been proposed.

Councilman Daryl D. Jones said the cameras would serve as an added crime-fighting tool for police and prosecutors. The proposed legislation is largely modeled after a 2005 law in Baltimore County, which was passed after a teacher was fatally shot in the parking lot of Towson Town Center.

Jones said that in addition to Arundel Mills - one of the county's largest revenue sources - the legislation will target other prominent shopping centers in the county, including Annapolis Town Center at Parole and Marley Station mall in Glen Burnie.

"Particularly with Arundel Mills, there's a perception that there's a crime problem," said Jones, a Democrat who represents the area around the mall. "It's incumbent upon the county to try to protect the citizens."

The County Council is currently weighing a zoning bill to allow slots on the grounds of Arundel Mills. Opponents of the measure say slots likely will bring more crime to the area. Jones said he would present his proposed legislation, which would likely include a provision for low-interest loans for malls to acquire the cameras, to the council in the fall.

The latest violent incident at Arundel Mills, on June 23, left a 24-year-old woman with minor injuries after four teens attacked her as she walked from the mall about 6 p.m. She was tackled from behind as her attackers tried to take her purse. A passer-by foiled the attack.

Three teenage girls were charged with attempted robbery and assault.

Late last year, five people were robbed at gunpoint in parking lots at Arundel Mills and nearby stores. No one was injured, but the crimes included an armed robbery in which two men were forced to drive their attackers to ATMs and make withdrawals, a robbery at gunpoint in the parking lot and a purse-snatching. And a security guard was stabbed in the mall when he detained two men suspected of shoplifting.

Police statistics show that through May, there had been eight robberies in the mall parking lot. In 2008 there were 14.

Justin Mulcahy, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel police, said surveillance cameras near businesses have proved effective at helping police find criminals.

"When we deal with surveillance footage, it definitely aids our agency with being able to make apprehensions," Mulcahy said. "It's proven to be an advantageous tool to solving crime."

In November 2006, a 16-year-old high school student and a Secret Service agent were wounded in a shooting at Westfield Annapolis mall. And in January 2008, a teenager was stabbed at The Mall in Columbia.

Jones said Arundel Mills' vicinity to three major roadways - the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Interstate 95 and Route 100 - makes the shopping center an attractive spot for criminals looking to make a quick getaway.

Les Morris, a spokesman for Simon Malls, the Indianapolis-based parent company of Arundel Mills, said he could not comment on pending legislation, but the Hanover property has cameras "both inside and outside." David Keating, a spokesman for General Growth Properties Inc., the parent company of Baltimore County's White Marsh Mall, said the facility is equipped with a closed-circuit television system, but declined to further discuss the mall's public safety measures.

In Baltimore County, police say mall crime has dropped since the law passed.

From 2007 to 2008, for example, auto thefts from the county mall's parking lots decreased from 141 to 98, said Bill Toohey, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

"You can't definitely say the cameras are responsible for that, but if the criminals do know there are cameras there, they're much more likely to go where they don't think they'll be detected," Toohey said.

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