A woman chatting on her cellphone while walking to her car has the phone grabbed out of her hand by a robber at Quail Springs Mall.
A knife-wielding robber confronts a man in the Crossroads Mall parking lot. The driver jumps out of his vehicle, leaving his keys in the ignition. The thief takes the car.
An employee on her way to work at Penn Square Mall is groped in the mall's parking garage.
These crimes were among hundreds that occurred at Oklahoma City malls during the first eight months of the year, police department records revealed.
People soon will flock to malls for the holiday shopping, and that means even more targets for criminals looking for prey, Oklahoma City police say.
“It's important to note there's a lot more potential targets, potential victims when it's holiday shopping season,” Master Sgt. Gary Knight said.
The vast majority of crimes at the three malls so far this year entailed the theft of merchandise. But there were assaults and crimes such as purse snatchings and auto thefts. Mall security personnel and police also had to deal with combative and belligerent customers and the occasional drunk patron.
In June, a woman accused of hiding almost $1,000 in clothes she did not pay for in two bags took a swing at an Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy who had stopped her at Penn Square Mall, 1901 Northwest Expressway.
The woman groped in that mall's garage Aug. 5 told police a man followed her to the stairwell and grabbed her under her dress before running away. Police tracked the suspect to an Oklahoma City home using his license plate number, which was reported by a witness who saw a man acting suspiciously and followed his vehicle out of the garage. Police arrested Alex Altamirano, 42, of Oklahoma City, at the residence, on a complaint of sexual battery.
Mall officials were reluctant to discuss public safety plans. Asked for interviews, managers at two malls released statements instead.
Quail Springs Mall, 2501 W Memorial Road, has a customized public safety program, according to a statement released by Kelly Waswo, senior general manager.
The statement did not include details, claiming that would compromise safety efforts.
Penn Square also sent a written statement attributed to Penn Square general manager Jeff Dozier. It states the mall's security tools include a security tower, 24-hour patrol and security personnel patrolling inside and outside the mall. There also is a police presence on the property.
The mall frequently coordinates activities with the police department, according to the statement.
The statement didn't address a question about whether there had been improvements to safety efforts in the parking garage, thought it states the security program is continually evaluated.
A manager at Crossroads Mall, 7000 Crossroads Blvd., responded to several message by referring calls to a marketing person, who could not be reached for comment.
Police officers assigned to patrol areas around malls will be paying close attention in the coming months, Knight said.
Shoppers also can take steps to prevent crime — measures such as shopping with a partner, locking valuables out of sight in the trunk, and not loading merchandise in the car and returning to the mall.
Scattered, distracted shoppers — picture a customer absent-mindedly chatting on a phone while searching for a forgotten parking space — make themselves a target. Knight said shoppers should make a mental note of that parking spot on the way in.
“Don't become so overburdened with packages that you have to sit them down, fumble for keys. Make sure your keys are in your hand and you know where you're going,” Knight said.
It can't hurt to ask a store or mall security if they will walk you to your car, he said. And if something or someone feels threatening or strange, call 911.